Ohio Senate race a dead heat; Kasich popularity at new high, poll says

Gov. John Kasich’s popularity among Ohio voters now stands at more than 2-1 while the 2016 race for U.S. Senate between incumbent Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Ted Strickland is too close to call, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.

Strickland, who served as governor 2007-2010, holds a 3-point lead over Portman and is 21 points ahead of primary challenger P.G. Sittenfeld, a Cincinnati City Councilman, according to the poll.

Forty-five percent of voters approve of the job Portman is doing while 47 percent approve of the job U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, is doing.

“The too-close-to-call status of the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Rob Portman and former Gov. Ted Strickland is progress for the Republican incumbent who had trailed the Democratic challenger in previous Quinnipiac University polls,” said assistant poll director Peter Brown in a written statement.

Americans for Prosperity, a political organization backed by billionaire business brothers David and Charles Koch, recently launched $1.4 million worth of attack ads against Strickland. And the Portman campaign on Monday announced it is running online ads that hit Strickland for supporting President Obama’s nuclear pact with Iran.

“There’s no better proof of just how strong Ted Strickland’s campaign is than the millions of dollars Sen. Portman and his special interest allies are dumping into Ohio to tear Ted down,” said Ohio Democratic Party spokeswoman Jennifer Donohue in a statement. The party calculated that $9.4 million has been already spent against Strickland with 14 months to go before election day.

Portman campaign manager Corry Bliss said in a written statement: “We’re eager to compare Rob’s record fighting to expand Ohio opportunities for better paying jobs with Gov. Strickland’s awful tenure in office when Ohio ranked 48th in job creation and lost over 350,000 jobs.”

Kasich, who is running for president, has a job approval rating of 61-28 percent, which matches his all-time high rating. Eighty-four percent of GOP voters like him, 62 percent of men and 60 percent of women approve of the job he is doing while Democrats are divided, 46-44 percent.

The poll surveyed 1,096 Ohio voters on cell phones and land lines from Aug. 7 to Aug. 18. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.