Yesterday, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announced his intention to challenge Sen. Rob Portman next year as he seeks re-election to the U.S. Senate. It has been rumored for months that Sittenfeld was eyeing the race, so few were probably surprised to see him jump in. He’s the first of what could be a handful of Democratic candidates who will vie for the party’s nomination to run for the seat.
Knocking Sen. Portman off next year will be a tough task. He was first elected to the Senate in 2010, taking nearly 57% of the vote. He was the leading vote-getter of all of the statewide candidates that year. Here at the beginning of 2015, he already has almost $6 million in his campaign coffers. Expect that number to continue to rise at a good clip. Sen. Portman is an influential senator with a national reputation.
Just as interesting as Sittenfeld declaring for the race is that former Gov. Ted Strickland is “strongly considering” a run. Rumors floated two years ago that Strickland was considering a rematch with Gov. John Kasich, which obviously never came to fruition. Concerning the U.S. Senate race, including his name as a possibility could be a matter of deference. He continues to be a revered figure amongst Ohio Democrats, as he’s the only Democratic governor the state has had going back to Dick Celeste, who served from 1983-91.
It’s hard to imagine that at 73 Strickland would be looking to run for a new office. He’ll be 75 by Election Day 2016. Among current U.S. senators, the oldest when taking office is Sen. Angus King of Maine, who was 68 when sworn in two years ago.
But then again, it’s Strickland himself saying he’s considering a run, not a consultant or party operative. Could there be something else motivating him?
As we all know, Ted Strickland has been a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton. He endorsed her in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, and he was speculated to be a possible pick as her running mate had she won. This time around, Clinton may need him in a different role. To have a strong Democratic candidate to challenge Sen. Portman, and possibly defeat him, would be very helpful in trying to win the electoral votes of the all-important battleground state of Ohio. In 2012, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel lost to Sen. Sherrod Brown by six points, while Mitt Romney only lost the state to President Obama by three points. A stronger performance from a Republican Senate candidate could have helped swing more momentum in Romney’s direction. Now, that would not have won him the election, but we could easily devise a scenario where 2016 could come down to Ohio. In that case, Clinton will want all the help and momentum she can muster. Ted Strickland might just be the answer.
Obviously that’s just speculation, but if Strickland eventually chooses to run my guess would be that the Clinton team has something to do with it.