Dayton mayor: Portman is “formidable” but still beatable

Nan Whaley says P.G. Sittenfeld should step aside for former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said that Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld should step down from the 2016 U.S. Senate race in favor of former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.

After speaking at a Butler County Democratic Party meeting, the first-term mayor said that the party would stand a better chance to unseat Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati with Strickland, a 73-year-old who spent a dozen years as a congressman, over Sittenfeld, a 30-year-old rising star in the Democratic Party.

“These Senate races cost a lot of money, a lot of attention is paid to it,” she said. “If they’re in a presidential with Ohio (always a battleground state), I think this will be an expensive senate race.”

Whaley said the party needs to “figure it out” now rather than to “draw it out and have an expensive primary” because the Democrats typically don’t have the coffers that Republicans do.

“We are the party of the people … and I think we’d prefer to be unified,” said Whaley. “We’d rather save our dollars.”

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The main reason Whaley is throwing her support behind Strickland: “I think Ted Strickland is really Ohio.”

“When we talk about what working families have gone through, through the Great Recession, Ted Strickland knows and understands that, and he knows what needs to happen in Washington, D.C.,” she said.

In response to Whaley’s comments, Ramsey Reid, Sittenfeld’s campaign manager, simply said, “We have gotten a great response so far from supporters, who feel energized by P.G.’s vision for strengthening the middle class and his new ideas for building a better future.”

Whaley said Portman is a beatable candidate considering the result of a Feb. 10 Quinnipiac Poll that indicated only 37 percent of respondents say he deserves re-election.

“For an incumbent you want to be around 50 (percent),” she said.

But Portman isn’t an automatic win, she said.

Within hours of Strickland announcing that he would challenge Portman, Republicans and Portman’s own campaign had launched two websites bashing the former Ohio governor, a series of locally targeted Web ads aimed at pointing out which communities lost jobs under Strickland’s tenure and a video mocking “Terrible Ted.”

“I don’t necessarily think it’s an attack,” Portman said. “It’s just sending out the differences.”

Republicans have sent out attacks against Sittenfeld too, but have saved the most blistering barrages for Strickland.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said the party has not endorsed a candidate, but the strong push against Strickland by the Portman campaign “shows they understand he is a real threat.”

And the buzz surrounding Strickland’s announcement proves the country will be watching this U.S. Senate race, Pepper said.

“I think Ohio, amazingly more than in the past, will be the center more than ever, mainly because of the presidential election, the convention and now the senate race that could change the face of the Senate,” Pepper said.

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