Karl Rove’s group has spent money for ads in the Ohio Senate race. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also been on the air as well. The Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity are on the air attacking Ted Strickland in a misleading ad about Wilmington, Ohio. Portman’s own campaign has been attacking Ted Strickland in various digital ad buys since Strickland entered the race. In total, it is estimated that over $9 million in ads have been spent to help Rob Portman already in a Senate race still over a year away and defeat Ted Strickland, a race the GOP knows very well may decide who controls the U.S. Senate under a new President.
Normally, such a lopsided glut of paid media would spell doom for a challenger. And yet, yesterday’s Quinnipiac Poll shows that Ted Strickland still holds a three-point lead over freshman Republican incumbent Rob Portman. The poll shows that former Governor Strickland has leads with independents, women, and voters under 49.
Portman’s approval rating is still well below 50% as is his number against Strickland on the head go to head, dangerous territory of an incumbent. In fact, his approval rating has dropped by four points since June. Nate Silver observed in 2010 that an incumbent getting less than 45% in a head-to-head against his challenger in early polling LOST ten out of the fifteen times it’s happened. Arguably, Ted Strickland is actually polling better than Sherrod Brown did when he challenged Mike DeWine in 2006.
Conversely, things have gotten worse for Strickland’s challenger, Cincinnati City Councilperson P.G. Sittenfeld. Sittenfeld now loses to Rob Portman (25%/46%) in a number virtually unchanged since Quinnipiac first asked since April (24%/47%). Young voters (one the groups Strickland does best with) is actually the second weakest age group to support Sittenfeld (with voters over 65 being the worst). Quinnipiac suggests the entire rationale for Sittenfeld’s candidacy, being more attractive to young voters, is simply not valid.
Even worse, Sittenfeld is now under water on the favorability/unfavorability question (the only candidate in the race under water), and the number of voters who say they don’t know Sittenfeld enough to form an opinion is back up to 88% after slightly dropping from 89% in April. Seven months in the campaign, and Sittenfeld’s numbers are actually slightly worse than where he started.
Part of the problem is Sittenfeld has only seem to have two campaign related events so far this month. He attended a Black Lives Matter church event near Toledo a few weeks ago and spoke to the Broadview Heights and Breckville Democrats last night. He was conspicuously absent at the Defend the Dream anti-Koch Brothers rally in Columbus last week, instead spending the weekend with his fiancee in St. Louis.
It’s hard to see how Sittenfeld can improve his numbers if he’s only doing two campaign events a month. Stay in the race or not, he’s been a total nonfactor. But a year out, Strickland is historically in a very strong position for a challenger in an Ohio U.S. Senate race despite millions in one-sided special interest spending trying to defeat him.