AP Interview: Democrat lagging in cash says Ohio Senate TV ads will be week-to-week decision

By John Seewer, AP
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ohio Dem for Senate faces struggle with TV ad buys

TOLEDO, Ohio — Lagging in both fundraising and recent polls, the Democratic candidate for Ohio’s open U.S. Senate seat said Tuesday it will be a week-to-week decision on how much TV time he can buy up until the Nov. 2 general election.

Cash-strapped Lee Fisher, currently Ohio’s lieutenant governor, said fundraising has improved, but he won’t come close to matching the spending by former Republican congressman Rob Portman.

Fisher told The Associated Press in an interview that it’s no surprise he’s the underdog because he’s been outspent by a wide margin by Portman, who has been airing ads all summer.

Campaign finance numbers have shown Fisher trailing his opponent 9-to-1 in fundraising.

It’s clear that the gap has dented the Democrat’s ability to both establish himself and slow down Portman.

While many candidates around the country have been on television for at least a month, Fisher is just rolling out his first statewide TV spot this week.

Fisher’s campaign wouldn’t disclose the size of the ad buy, but a state Republican official said it was $1.4 million and that the ad would be running in northern Ohio and Columbus but not in the Cincinnati area.

Fisher takes aim at Portman in the ad, saying the former budget director and trade representative for George W. Bush approved tax breaks that sent jobs overseas and that Portman “knows how to grow the economy, in China.”

It’s a message that could hit home in Ohio, a state hurt more than most others by job losses and where unemployment was 10.3 percent in July.

“More and more Ohioans will realize what’s at stake,” Fisher said. “We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past.”

The Portman campaign responded by saying Ohio lost 400,000 since 2006 jobs while Fisher served as the state’s economic development director.

“Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher is trying to hide his own failed record by launching a false negative attack,” said Portman spokesman Jeff Sadosky.

Fisher insists that the Senate race is still a tossup even though a poll released over the weekend by The Columbus Dispatch showed him trailing by 13 percent.

“Most people haven’t yet focused on this race,” he said. “They’re focused on paying their bills, and many are living paycheck to paycheck.”

Portman and his supporters have spent around $3 million on TV this summer, Fisher said. A group called American Crossroads that was created under the direction of former Bush strategist Karl Rove spent $500,000 on a commercial backing Portman.

Portman also had an early advantage heading into the fall because he didn’t face a primary challenge and built up a huge cash advantage.

Fisher had to nearly start from scratch after a primary fight that forced him to spend most of the money he raised in the beginning of this year.

Campaign finance reports released in July showed Portman held a big cash-on-hand advantage: $8.8 million to $1 million.

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