Strickland Says He'll Fight The GOP Money Machine Lined Up Against Him
PHILADELPHIA – Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland stood in front of the Ohio delegation Thursday morning, trailing in the polls in his U.S. Senate race, and called himself the "36 million dollar man."
That, Strickland said, is how much incumbent Republican Rob Portman and his Super PAC allies committed so far to defeating him in this year's Ohio Senate race – considered one of the most important in the nation as the Democrats fight to take back control of the U.S. Senate.
"I grew up in little Duck Run; we didn't have running water until I was in high school," said the former governor, referring to the tiny Scioto County village that was also the boyhood home of cowboy star Roy Rogers.
"And these people are spending $36 million to defeat me," Strickland said. "But I grew up in a family of nine children, five of them boys, and I know how to fight."
And fight he must.
Strickland is at a huge fundraising disadvantage. A website that tracks polling in state and national races, RealClearPolitics.com, has Portman ahead of Strickland by four percentage point in an average of three recent polls of Ohio voters.
Not an insurmountable lead by any means, but not good news for Strickland, who led in the polling by a substantial margin earlier in the year.
Michawn Rich, a spokeswoman for Portman's campaign, said "there is not a Senate candidate more reliant on out-of-state Super PAC money than Ted Strickland.
Rich said Strickland has benefited from over $40 million in outside spending, including $10 million in July from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's Super PAC.
Thursday morning, he was standing in a room full of hundreds of the most influential Democrats in Ohio; people who can make things happen for their candidates when they go back home Friday.
He tried to impress on them the importance of his race.
"I think what happens in Ohio could determine what party controls the U.S. Senate and that could determine the course of the United States Supreme Court going forward," Strickland said.
"If Donald Trump and his like win this election and can appoint, 2, 3 or 4 members of that court it would be a disaster," Strickland said.
In a room where many of the delegates are union members, Strickland reminded them that it was 11 years ago today that Portman, as President George W. Bush's trade representative, declared himself the "quarterback" of the Central American Free Trade Act (CAFTA). The union workers believe such trade agreements are doing nothing but sending American jobs overseas.
"Rob Portman, you never met a trade agreement you didn't like," said Strickland.
While Strickland has the support of the AFL-CIO unions, Portman has picked up endorsements from the Teamsters and the United Mine Workers of American (UMWA). The coal miners' union endorsement of Portman was particularly hard for Strickland to take because he had represented Ohio's coal country in the U.S. House before becoming governor in 2006.
Asked by reporters afterward about the UMWA snub, Strickland said he has been told by many Ohio coal miners that they intend to vote for him.
"They come up to me and say they'll be in my TV ads if I want them to," Strickland said. "I think there were inside-Washington considerations to that endorsement."
It may have had something to do with the fact that after he lost the governor's race in 2010, he went to work for a progressive organization that advocated clean energy.
Strickland spent as much time bashing Trump as he did Portman Thursday, both with the delegates and the media, saying Trump is totally unqualified to be president.
He did have something good to say about the man who, in 2010, took the Ohio governor's office away from him – Republican John Kasich.
"I have to say that I congratulate John Kasich for having the integrity not to get behind Donald Trump," Strickland said of Kasich's refusal to endorse the GOP nominee.