POLITICAL INSIDER: Polls shows Portman enjoying advantage over Fisher in OH Senate race

By Philip Elliott, AP
Saturday, September 18, 2010

POLITICAL INSIDER: Portman leads Fisher in OH race

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Former Bush budget director Rob Portman is enjoying a commanding advantage over his Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, in the race for Ohio’s open Senate seat, according to a poll.

A Quinnipiac University survey released Friday shows Portman, a former Republican member of Congress, with a 20 percentage point lead over Fisher, a veteran of state politics who has seen his campaign founder. Fisher has badly lagged in fundraising, seen high turnover on his staff and drawn criticism from Washington Democrats who had hoped to flip the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. George Voinovich.

Portman garners 55 percent support, Fisher 35 percent in the poll taken Sept. 9 to Sept. 14. The poll of 730 likely voters has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

EDITOR’S NOTE — An insider’s view of this year’s elections based on dispatches from around the nation.

While Fisher has had President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other Democratic heavyweights visit the state to boost his campaign, the efforts seem to have not much helped.

The poll found six of 10 voters want a senator who opposes Obama’s policies. That is a startling figure for the president, whose likely re-election campaign in 2012 will require a victory in Ohio if he is to earn a second term.

Outside groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Bush adviser-run American Crossroads, have spent heavily in the state to damage Fisher, who led the state’s economic development programs as the recession began. Republicans hope to pin the state’s unemployment on Fisher and Democrats — and not President George W. Bush, who was in the White House as the economy worsened in 2007 and 2008.

Portman served as Bush’s budget director and then trade ambassador. He later was an adviser to Sen. John McCain’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has a Republican opponent in November after all, thanks to a successful write-in effort by one challenger.

James McKenna, a former prosecutor from Millbury, garnered more than the necessary 10,000 write-in signatures during Tuesday’s primary election. That assured him a place on the Nov. 2 ballot in the race for state attorney general.

A second Republican, Guy Carbone, also attempted a write-in campaign, but the results remained in question.

Republican Scott Brown beat Coakley in the special U.S. Senate race to replace the late Edward Kennedy. Nonetheless, the Massachusetts Republican Party failed to draft any candidates to challenge Coakley’s re-election to the state post.

That led McKenna and Carbone to attempt write-in campaigns.

“We decided to make sure we were going to get on the ballot and make this happen,” McKenna said, listing his top priorities as fighting public corruption, illegal immigration and restoring trust in government.

A spokesman for Coakley’s campaign said she welcomes the challenge and is prepared to run on her record as the state’s top law enforcement officer.

Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jennifer Nassour said the party is ready to throw its support behind McKenna.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty says a trade mission he’s on in Asia is the sole reason he withdrew from an influential group’s straw poll of 2012 GOP contenders.

Pawlenty is concluding a trade trip to China and Japan this weekend, which will keep him from the Value Voters Summit in Washington. The meeting of conservatives includes a preference ballot allowing delegates to say who they favor for 2012.

Pawlenty’s name was originally on the ballot, but he asked to remove it.

“We certainly appreciate the Value Voters Summit,” Pawlenty said from Tokyo. “Because I wasn’t able to be there, we didn’t think it would be appropriate to participate otherwise in the event. It was fairly straightforward in that regard.”

Fellow Minnesota Republican, Rep. Michele Bachmann, will speak to the group and have her name listed on the ballot. Pawlenty says he has “a great amount of respect and admiration” for Bachmann.

Former President Bill Clinton is lending some campaign help to Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank’s re-election bid.

Frank told the Taunton Daily Gazette that Clinton is scheduled to appear in the city on Sept. 26 for a rally in a high school fieldhouse.

Frank, running for a 16th term, says he and his fellow Democrat have been friends for some time.

Frank swept to an easy victory in the Democratic primary and faces Republican Sean Bielat (BEE’-ah-lot) in the general election in November.

Bielat, a 35-year-old ex-Marine and businessman from Brookline, says he’s “flattered” that Frank is worried enough about the city to invite Clinton. He noted that Taunton voted for Republican Scott Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley in this year’s Senate race.


Associated Press writers Steve LeBlanc in Boston and Brian Bakst in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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