As far as Races to Watch for seats in the senate go, Ohio may wind up falling more on the side of an “interesting” contest than a “close” one.
Dating back quite some time–even as long as a year ago–the race between Ohio incumbent Republican senator Rob Portman and Democratic nominee Ted Strickland looked as though it would be one of the closer contests of 2016. For months, polling numbers lept back and forth between the two candidates, some showing Strickland leading Portman by as many as nine points then, a few months later, Portman back up by three. The back-and-forth trend continued as both candidates could claim small, single-digit leads in polls as the November election approached.
Then, roughly one month ago, Portman began to pull away from Strickland, increasing his lead from five points to eight or nine, where it hovered until a late-August Emerson college poll showed the incumbent with a somewhat comfortable 15 point lead. Real Clear Politics currently cites the average lead that Portman holds is roughly 7.5 points–a margin that allows Portman to approach the election with confidence.
Despite the seemingly comfortable lead, however, some are still calling for a fairly close race, and remains a certain battleground state for the election, making the race all the more important for the GOP. As 24 of the 34 Class III seats up for election feature Republican incumbents. A loss in those races could pull the current 54-44 Republican senate lead into a much closer race.
Strickland has held a few small advantages over Portman, at least at the moment. At the beginning of the race, despite not having served in office in about six years, Strickland held a degree of name recognition over Portman according to The Atlantic. He also brought a wealth of experience to the race, having served six terms in the House.
Portman, however, has more than enough political experience to make up for Strickland’s years in the House. Between 1993 and 2005, Portman too served in the House of Representatives before working as the 13th US Trade Representative, then the Director of Office Management and Budget under President George W. Bush.
Despite early predictions of a right race early in the political season, the incumbent Portman has made up ground on Strickland substantially and seems primed to retain the Senate seat he’s held since 2011 come November 8.