A new Quinnipiac Poll released Tuesday shows that Ohio’s junior U.S. Senator, Rob Portman, after five years in office is losing to former Gov. Ted Strickland. The former Democratic governor of Ohio has been attacked at length by Republicans and their allies since he lost a narrow election to John Kasich in 2010, and remains a big target for outside GOP groups who are promising to spend millions to keep him from taking¬†Mr. Portman’s senate seat.

In the 2016 U.S. Senate race, Quinnipiac says Ted Strickland leads Sen. Rob Portman by three points, 44-41, which is within the margin of error of the poll.   This, despite the fact that Portman and outside super PACs have spent as much as $9.4 million on advertising attacking Strickland.

What will be seen as good news for Mr. Strickland is that Sen. Portman beats Cincinnati City Council member P.G. Sittenfeld 46 – 25 percent. Sittenfeld has not been endorsed for the run, as Strickland has, and has refused so far to drop out of the race, which has created ripples of discontent with party officials, donors and others who might think differently about him if he were to be running for any other public office.

Voters approve 45 – 26 percent of the job Portman is doing and give him a 42 – 19 percent favorability rating. Strickland, meanwhile, gets a 44 – 32 percent favorability rating while 88 percent of voters don’t know enough about Sittenfeld to form an opinion of him.

As Gov. John Kasich continues to place all his bets on a good showing in New Hampshire next February, Quinnipiac’s finding that Ohio voters approve of him 61 – 28 percent will be bandied about as proof the now term-limited governor is a rising star among the 17 declared GOP candidates. Kasich’s rating matches his all-time high rating, Quinnipiac found. Among GOP voters, Gov. Kasich wins impressively 84 – 10 percent with independent voters liking him 60 – 28 percent. It’s no surprise that Democrats are divided 46 – 44 percent. Men approve of him 62 – 25 percent and women approve 60 – 31 percent.

Ohio’s senior U.S. Senator, Sherrod Brown, first elected in 2006 and again six years later even though about $40 million was spent to unseat him, gets a 47 – 29 percent approval rating.

“The too-close-to-call status of the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Rob Portman and former Gov. Ted Strickland is progress for the Republican incumbent who had trailed the Democratic challenger in previous Quinnipiac University polls,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in prepared remarks.