Republicans are sweating bullets because, with fewer than 100 days left until Election Day, they know they are stuck between a rock and “the vulgar talking yam,” as Charlie Pierce at Esquire calls Donald Trump, the GOP candidate for president and carnival barker.

Trump’s one-time strength of tweeting himself to victory through the long, grinding and colorful GOP primary season has in the General Election turned into a suicide mission even a Kamikaze pilot would think twice about undertaking.

Sen. Rob Portman and Gov. John Kasich campaign on stage in 2012 in Chillicothe with Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. Chillicothe.

Sen. Rob Portman and Gov. John Kasich campaign on stage in 2012 in Chillicothe with Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

Democrats and their presidential ticket, former New York senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, have in Trump an unleashed and unfiltered gift that keeps on giving, day in and day out. Donald Trump should, but probably won’t, sober up to the hard reality that his campaign is not reality TV, as his once competitive contest with Mrs. Clinton has evaporated like water at the height of summer in Death Valley. .

New polling shows the New York billionaire and businessman folk hero has given up between three to nine percentage points, as Clinton now tops the Big Orange Machine again now that both parties concluded their conventions.

America’s vaunted Gray Lady of respectable journalism, the New York Times, which Donald Trump predicts won’t be in business much longer, made the case Tuesday in its editorial “Mr. Trump and Spineless Republicans” that “It’s time for Republican leaders to set an example for their party by withdrawing support for Donald Trump.”

As all eyes follow the candidates, that attention is now focused on Ohio, the bellwether state you can’t lose and still be elected president, if factual history is your guide. In Ohio, the second big battle after president is whether incumbent GOP Senator Rob Portman can stave off a challenge from former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland. Senator Portman has nearly six years of work in the Senate to promote, but he’s not well known in spite of his long history as a congressman from Cincinnati who served in two administrative positions—budget director then trade representative—for President George W. Bush.

Mr. Portman has fallen, to his great discredit, into the “spineless” category as defined by the NYT of Republicans who promised to support the party’s nominee but who are now afraid to openly cozy up to the 70-year old real estate mogul, whose fortune may not be as big as he says but whose reputation as someone who routinely stiffs vendors and contractors could be far larger than once imagined.

In 2012, two years after Portman and John Kasich won their first term elections, they both had Mitt Romney’s back on policy and in person, as the above picture shows. Now, as Sen. Portman ducks and hides from speaking Trump’s name in public and not appearing with him, Ted Strickland will be able to pound on that weakness every day until election Doomsday arrives this year, on November 8. Appearing over the weekend on a national broadcast, Mr. Strickland used Portman as his punching bag, lambasting him for refusing to disavow Trump over his many verbal transgressions, the latest of which involves the parents of a fallen American soldier and Muslim, who he berated for questioning whether the builder of Trump Tower has ever read the U.S. Constitution or made any comparable sacrifice.

“How low can Donald Trump go before my opponent, Rob Portman, and other Republicans say enough is enough?” Strickland said. “This man has denigrated prisoners of war. He’s mocked disabled people. He’s implied that he may use nuclear weapons in Europe. He’s called women ‘pigs.’ And now he’s been insensitive to a Gold Star family. And what does Rob Portman say? Well he says ‘I disagree with what he said,’ but he doesn’t condemn him. He continues to support him and I’m just flabbergasted that Donald Trump can be Donald Trump and do and say what he has said and people like Rob Portman continue to embrace him as a presidential candidate. It’s just almost beyond belief and I think it’s an example of Rob Portman putting party over country.”

Meanwhile, Rob Portman jumped out of his plane without a parachute in May, when he endorsed Trump for president. The AP reported Portman saying, at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, that Trump could be a plus for his re-election bid. Sen. Portman offered one reason for his endorsement of Trump, that he “got votes from Ohioans who had never voted Republican.” He added that “he had friends who normally don’t vote who voted for Trump.”

What endorsing Trump has done for Portman in fact, based on new polling, is to give Ted Strickland, who has already weathered about $36 million spent against him by allies of Mr. Portman, a big boost. Plunderbund contributor David DeWitt wrote recently that a recent survey of likely Ohio voters shows Mr. Portman is hurt badly by the endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in Portman’s re-election race against former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.

“Portman’s fortunes in the race could be tied to Donald Trump’s…with a majority of voters saying they would be less likely to support Portman because he endorsed Trump – including nearly a quarter of current Portman supporters,” poll results of likely voters showed.

So while Ted Strickland won’t have the tens of millions Portman has to sling, his unwitting partner to help turn Ohio blue again this year is none other than the Donald himself. In Ohio recently, Trump didn’t mention Portman, but he did make a back-handed slap at him when he referred to bad trade deals negotiated by bad trade deal makers. Portman voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement while a congressman in the U.S. House, and was glad to call himself the quarterback for CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump took a swipe at both Portman and Ohio Gov. John Kasich when he said Rust Belt states are “rotting.” Kasich got blown out by Trump, only able to win one state while losing 49 others. Totally flummoxed by his big loses, Gov. Kasich has refused to say one good word let alone endorse the Big Apple billionaire as Portman, a bosom buddy and like-minded politician of long standing, has done.

Another potential gift to Strickland from Portman is his former boss, President George W. Bush, coming to Ohio to campaign for him. Ohio Democrats didn’t waste a second to jump on the duo campaign stops. Ohio Democratic Party Spokesman Daniel van Hoogstraten issued the following statement:

“We welcome President Bush to campaign here as often as he’d like because it’s the perfect opportunity to remind Ohioans about Senator Portman’s record in the Bush Administration: championing job-killing trade deals, exploding the deficit and raising taxes on the middle class in order to give handouts to the ultra-wealthy. As President Bush’s trade czar, Portman refused to stand up to China and was the principal cheerleader for damaging trade policies that devastated our economy, outsourced Ohio jobs and hurt our working families. And as President Bush’s Budget Director, Portman cut billions from Medicare, tried to gamble with Social Security on the stock market, cut millions from drug abuse prevention efforts and even tried to do away with college loan programs. Today’s event is a powerful reminder that Portman is the ultimate Washington insider who has been pushing the interests of the rich and powerful for decades while Ohio’s working people pay the price”

Is Donald Trump, and now maybe George W. Bush, Ted Strickland’s best weapons against a second term for Sen. Rob Portman? The simple, clear answer is yes.

 

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