Ohio’s junior U.S. Senator has a prize puzzle to ponder. Running for a second 6-year term this year, Republican Sen. Rob Portman is more verklempt each day about the reality of having to share his political bed with the New York billionaire and businessman folk hero who just got in it, thinking he’s entitled to all of it.
It’ s been long in the making by Republican messengers, but after knocking out 16 other GOP challengers, including and most especially Gov. John Kasich, can Sen. Portman get away with just kissing the orange ogre, or does the ogre have his New York Minute way with Cincinnati’s soft-spoken, commonsense conservative after he claims the Republican nomination in Cleveland? The candidate Sen. Portman liked best, because their beliefs and values are the same, was the last old-school Reagan Republican to be broken on the primary wheel by Team Trump, and voters who are tired of hugs and hope and want Game Of Thones action.
Sen. Portman’s problem is real, and so upside-down different from anything he experienced in the dozen years he spent in the House, or as a former United States trade representative and director of the Office of Management and Budget for President George W. Bush. Instead of uniting behind Mr. Trump like Portman is ready to do, DC insiders like House Speaker Paul Ryan are playing harder to get, according to the AP.
“That highly unusual state of affairs is creating a tricky situation for Republicans in the House and Senate, some of whom fear Trump could prove a drag on their own re-election chances in a year when the GOP is fighting to hang onto its slim Senate majority,” Congressional correspondent Erica Werner wrote.
All that establishment party experience over Portman’s long arc in DC didn’t prepare him for an Orange ogre breathing down his neck. Like it or not, Sen. Portman is stuck with Trump, who seems to be using the Republican Party like a political AirBnB.
For Democrats, especially an energized challenger like former Gov. Ted Strickland, Portman’s puzzling predicament is perfect. Mr. Trumps’s cartoon-sized personality and his proposals for the nation, that make some cringe and others laugh out loud, will only force Sen. Portman to wonder where to turn to next with 182 days left until Election Day in November, as he tries to distance himself from a candidate who might otherwise liken him as “low energy” as he did to Jeb! Bush.
Portman has confirmed that he will vote for Donald Trump if Trump is the Republican nominee, which puts him on the other side of the growing lineup of Republican candidates who say just the opposite. If Trump’s candidacy leads to the party sinking in November, Portman likely won’t win his reelection, no matter what he says or does to hopscotch to or from Trump.
If Trump does win, as a new Quinnipiac Poll today suggests could happen as the potential race tightens between the two presumed party nominees—Hillary Clinton and Trump—Mr. Portman’s low-energy personality might get a boost from Trump’s high-energy campaign.
What could be even more entertaining is watching the fight between Team Trump and GOP convention rule makers. Trump opponents, like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and others, see the Republican platform, the party’s statement of ideals and policy goals, as a place for a stand in Cleveland, the AP reported, noting that conservatives say they will use that vote to keep Trump from reshaping GOP dogma against abortion, for free trade and on other issues.
“If the party walks away from any of its clearly cut social, family values issues, it will be an issue,” Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council and GOP delegate from Louisiana said, “We’re not just going to fall in line because he’s the nominee.”
Reliable polling shows Portman either losing to Gov. Strickland or at best mired in a tie. “The Senate race in Ohio remains very tight, with Rob Portman and Ted Strickland each at 38%, and 23% of voters undecided,” Public Policy Polling reported on May 2.
Rob Portman has just a 32/40 approval spread and his position on not filling a vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme court has the potential to hurt Portman. More than half of voters [53%] want to see the seat filled this year to only 39% who don’t, including a 60/31 spread with independents in favor of filling it this year. Nearly two-thirds of voters [65%] think the Senate should have hearings on President Obama’s pick, Judge Merrick Garland.
President Obama urged Sen. Portman today to fulfill his constitutional responsibility and grant Judge Merrick Garland a fair hearing and an up or down vote. The president, who won Ohio twice, said “the fact that Republicans like Portman are not calling for a hearing or a vote means they’re not doing their job.” Commenting, Ted Strickland said, “I sincerely hope that Rob Portman won’t shirk his responsibilities. But as every D.C. insider’s favorite senator, I don’t have a lot of hope.”
Another anchor Portman has tied his line to is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, who only a 14 percent approval rating with Ohio voters to 50 percent who disapprove of him. The race between Portman and Strickland could end up being the most competitive in the country this year, some say.
“We always find it closely matched, and there are also more voters on the fence than there are in some other key Senate contests this year. How Portman handles the Supreme Court issue could play a big role in determining his fate,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling.
Back in February, Quinnipiac found Strickland with 44 percent compared to Portman’s 42 percent. “The Ohio U.S. Senate race is a statistical tie between incumbent Sen. Rob Portman and former Gov. Ted Strickland,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “If the contest remains this close, the outcome of the presidential race in Ohio could make the difference in the Senate contest.”
Stay Calm, Mind The Gap
But good news arrived for Sen. Portman Tuesday, when Quinnipiac revealed Trump leads Clinton 43 – 39 percent. Donald Trump leads 51 – 36 percent among men, while Mrs. Clinton takes women 43 – 36 percent. White voters go Republican 49 – 32 percent, as non-white voters vote Democratic 76 – 14 percent. The poll showed the age gap narrows as voters 18 to 34 years old go 43 percent for Clinton and 39 percent for Trump, while voters over 65 go 46 percent for Trump and 40 percent for Clinton. Independent voters go 40 percent for Trump and 37 percent for Clinton. Clinton gets a negative 34 – 62 percent favorability, compared to Trump’s negative 36 – 57 percent.
Other poll take-aways include: Trump would do a better job than Clinton handling the economy, Ohio voters say 52 – 40 percent. He also would be better on terrorism, voters say 48 – 43 percent. Ohio voters say 47 – 39 percent Clinton is more intelligent than Trump and by a narrow 43 – 39 percent that she has higher moral standards. Clinton has the temperament to handle an international crisis, Ohio voters say 51 – 46 percent, while Trump does not, voters say 63 – 29 percent. Voters support 75 – 22 percent requiring voters to show photo ID. Democrats are divided with 50 percent in favor of photo ID and 48 percent opposed. Illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. and apply for citizenship, 54 percent of voters say, while 9 percent say they can stay but not apply for citizenship and 31 percent say they should be required to leave the U.S.
Ohio voters oppose 52 – 45 percent building a wall along the border with Mexico. White voters are divided as 50 percent want a wall, with 46 percent opposed. Non-white voters are opposed 79 – 19 percent.
“Ohioans oppose ‘The Wall’ 52 – 45 percent, while they are overwhelmingly in favor of requiring a photo ID for anyone wanting to vote,” Peter Brown at Quinnipiac said. “They are happy with the economy and satisfied with the way things are going in the state – all of which is a nice testament to Gov. John Kasich, who dropped out of the White House race last week, but might be back as Trump’s running mate.”
In the meantime, some caution that until there are more polls, and as long as Clinton is still battling Sanders, the general election numbers will be unstable. “So don’t freak out about an individual poll result. Wait until June for more stability and in the meantime look at the polling averages,” writes Natalie Jackson Senior Polling Editor at The Huffington Post.
Yes, there is a different view on who’s ahead or behind this far out from November. HuffPost Pollster’s averages show Clinton 3 points ahead in Florida, 1 point in front in Ohio and leading by 5 points in Pennsylvania.