As the Labor Day weekend approaches, only 68 days remain before Election Day arrives this fall on Nov. 8. Ohio Republican incumbent Senator Rob Portman enjoys a lead of eight points over his challenger, former Democratic Ohio Gov.Ted Strickland, according to recent polls.

But a poll released Thursday by Public Policy Polling shows that Sen. Portman’s single-digit lead can shrink further if voters break for the candidate that best represents their interests on how to expand wages, especially in light of which candidate would or would not raise the federal minimum wage.

PPP’s new, robust Ohio Poll of 1,134 likely voters, conducted August 26-27 via phone and internet, show that Portman is vulnerable still when he’s tied to policies popular among wage earners. When the question was asked: “Having heard all the information in this poll, let me ask you again: The candidates for U.S. Senate are Democrat Ted Strickland and Republican Rob Portman. If the election were today, who would you vote for?” Portman lost two points: Ted Strickland 40 percent, Rob Portman 46 percent, Not sure 14 percent.


The shrink in the spread between the two was significant given results to a prior question—”The candidates for U.S. Senate are Democrat Ted Strickland and Republican Rob Portman. If the election were today, who would you vote for?” First-term Sen. Portman, a former budget director turned representative for President George W. Bush, whose administration of eight year ended with the nation in economic free fall, was up by nine points [Ted Strickland 39%, Rob Portman 48%, Not sure 13%].

Clinton Leads Trump By 4

In the race for president, Ohioans are with Hillary Clinton 46 percent 42 percent for Donald Trump with 12 percent undecided. Ohio is a key state, maybe the most important of all, to winning the presidency. Ohio Gov. John Kasich won Ohio, his only win throughout the grueling primary season, by less than 50 percent, with Donald Trump finishing second overall but finishing first in some chronically downtrodden parts of Ohio, including Appalachia and the Mahoning Valley. Ohio’s lame duck governor, who hasn’t dissuaded reporters from chatting him up for a future run in 2020 for the White House, his third try for the office, couldn’t stop Barack Obama from winning Ohio a second time in 2012 and appears to be unable to stop Hillary Clinton from possibly carrying Ohio this year, even though the state is run top to bottom by mostly hard-right Republicans whose political ideology syncs with Mr. Kasich.

Of those polled by PPP, a reputable firm that often is framed as left-leaning, 50 percent voted for Barack Obama compared to 41 percent who voted for Mitt Romney four years ago. Thirty-nine percent self-identified as Democrats, 38 percent as Republican. Fifty-three percent were women compared to 47 percent men.

Apparently with Labor Day in mind, PPP focused on who survey participants would vote for based on their position on the minimum wage. Strickland is for raising it, since at the Federal level that has not happened since 2009. Portman like Gov. Kasich and all other Republicans has opposed raising what a majority of Americans see as a first, simple way to boost earnings to better keep up with the costs of living. In 2014, Sen. Portman voted against a federal overall to $10.10 per hour, a standard championed by President Obama. For Republicans, raising the minimum wage is pretty much off the table. In the Democrat primary, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the two key contestants, argued about how high the wage should be, with Clinton on board for $12-hour while Sanders stood form for $15-hour.

Reports in the past several days about a shift in ad buys to promote Ted Strickland has fueled speculation that Portman’s lead is too large at this point in time to warrant spending more money for Strickland, who has lagged Portman, as big money has come to his aid by pounding Mr. Strickland for the state of Ohio’s economy after the Great Recession hit the nation’s 17th state like it did virtually all others. Ted Strickland has been playing defense from the onset of his campaign, as familiar GOP attacks center on the loss of jobs and revenue. Strickland has been lax in vigorously defending these attacks with rebuttals that put Republicans in the cross hairs of advocating policies that would have put Ohio is even worse shape than it was, after Strickland juggled state finances and used federal stimulus and stabilization funds to keep Ohio from sinking into a true economic depression.

Sen. Portman has endorsed Donald Trump and said President Obama’s saving of the auto industry, a central industry to Ohio jobs, was a ‘lousy deal.” Ted Strickland was in Warren, Ohio today, where Vice President Joe Biden held a political rally to boost both Clinton and Strickland.

Elizabeth Warren Tells Strickland He Can Still Win

National media is sensing that Portman’s lead is too much to overcome, as pro-Portman allies shift or delay TV advertising that’s pounded Strickland’s years as governor, as strategies are recalulated in light of polling that favors Portman. The Washington Times reports that outside allies for Portman and Strickland “are sending signals they think Mr. Portman is on his way to winning re-election in Ohio.” When the Beltway echo chamber repeats this speculative deduction, it feeds the narrative which in turn feeds the speculation that the race is too far gone for Strickland to overcome the gap.

But others offer hope based their experience of coming from behind to win. Despite the clock ticking down, Mr. Strickland got a dose of moral courage from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren Thursday. In an email to boost Strickland, the first-term senator who has become a firebrand for progressives, told supporters, “At this point in our 2012 Senate campaign, I was down by five points in the most recent poll, just like Ted. But we didn’t panic, and we didn’t give up — we got organized. We built the strongest grassroots army that Massachusetts had ever seen, and we powered it by thousands of people chipping in $5 or $10 at a time.”

Warren said she “not only closed the gap, but we won the election by eight points.” Sen. Warren, who many wanted to run for president but who has come out strongly for Hillary Clinton, noted that Strickland has been the target of $43 million in attacks from Republicans and Sen. Portman. Polls like the one from PPP today show Ohio is still winnable for the former governor. Grassroots organizing, she said, “will be the key to winning in November.”

Based on her experience, Sen. Warren said grassroots supporters are how “we won my Senate race in 2012 — and how Ted will win in 2016.”