Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is reaching back to a familiar topic in his likely 2016 faceoff with Ohio's former governor: jobs.
In a Web ad released Monday, Portman's campaign hammers Democrat Ted Strickland over the heavy job losses and soaring unemployment rate that occurred during his four-year term. A Portman campaign spokesman says the six-figure ad buy will have "significant" reach, though not on TV.
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The ad targeted to a statewide audience highlights high-profile cases including Dayton-based NCR taking 1,200 jobs to Georgia, U.S. Playing Cards taking 400 jobs to Kentucky and DHL eliminating 8,000 jobs when it closed its plant in Wilmington.
"Though Governor Strickland likes to pretend he was never governor, his awful job loss record will follow him for the next year and a half," campaign manager Corry Bliss said. "Ohio lost over 350,000 jobs on Strickland's watch and his endless excuses will never cover up the fact that Ohio lagged behind 47 other states in job creation. Ohio voters can't let Ted Strickland take them backwards."
Strickland joins Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld in seeking the 2016 Democratic nomination to replace Portman. In a move that's received widespread pushback, the party took sides in the primary and endorsed Strickland over the 30-year-old Sittenfeld.
The Portman ad makes no mention of the national recession that hit while Strickland was governor. Strickland campaign spokesman Dennis Willard said Portman is using the ad to distract from the senator's role in economic policies that led to the punishing downturn.
"Rob Portman is desperate to distract Ohioans from his vote last week to fast track jobs overseas with another disastrous NAFTA-like trade deal," Willard said. "After cheerleading NAFTA through and sending thousands of Ohio manufacturing jobs overseas, Portman went on to work arm-in-arm with President George W. Bush to create the financial collapse that let his 'Too Big to Fail' bank buddies destroy even more Ohio jobs. And now, after Ted Strickland helped bring Ohio back from the Great Recession, Portman is back at it again."
John Green, director of the University of Akron's Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, said such vigorous sparring more than a year before the election is unusual. He said a recent Quinnipiac University poll that found the incumbent senator trailing his potential rival by about 9 points may partly explain why.
"It's unusual for him to be behind, though obviously Strickland is very, very a well-known figure in Ohio," Green said. "By coming out this early, both sides want to start to engage the public to either reverse the impressions people have or to reinforce the impressions people have."
He said economic debates often jump between sharing the credit and blame at the state and federal levels, depending on the office being sought.