Portman Expands Lead Over Strickland in Ohio

Rob Portman in 2012 / AP
Rob Portman in 2012 / AP

Sen. Rob Portman (R.) has expanded his lead over former Gov. Ted Strickland in the Ohio senate race, the latest development in what has been a tumultuous week for the Democrat.

Portman would capture 49 percent of the vote and Strickland 40 percent if the election were held today, according to Quinnipiac University swing state poll released on Thursday. Portman has expanded his lead over Strickland to 9 points, after an identical poll taken last month showed him 7 points ahead. The two candidates were tied in June.

Strickland was forced to apologize on Wednesday after audio emerged of him telling a union group that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death "happened at a good time."

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"The death of Scalia saved labor from a terrible decision," Strickland told the Cleveland chapter of the AFL-CIO on Monday, referring to a 4-4 decision made by the court in March that was viewed by many as a victory for unions. "I don’t wish anyone ill, but it happened at a good time because once that decision had been made it would have been tough to reverse it."

Strickland apologized for the remark in a statement issued by his campaign later Wednesday, calling it "insensitive." The most recent Quinnipiac poll was conducted between July 30 and August 7, before audio of the controversial comment emerged.

Polls tracking the Ohio senate race, which is viewed as one of the most contentious in the 2016 election cycle, have increasingly shown the contest favoring Portman. While Strickland led Portman by nine points after launching his campaign last year, the Democrat’s support and favorability numbers have gradually fallen.

Portman has also received a boost from several union endorsements, despite the groups having a history of backing his challenger. The Republican incumbent’s campaign has significantly more cash on hand than that of his challenger, despite Strickland receiving support from billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and other wealthy Democratic megadonors.