Rob Portman opens up big lead over Ted Strickland in Senate race

Sen. Rob Portman has opened up an 11-point lead in his re-election campaign against former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, according to a new poll released Friday.

The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University, shows Portman has the support of 51 percent of likely voters in the November election while Strickland has 40 percent. A Quinnipiac poll last month showed Portman with a nine-point lead.

The survey shows Portman’s lead is in large part due to his strength among women voters. Forty-six percent of women voters in Ohio say they will back Portman compared to 45 percent for Strickland. For Strickland to have any chance of winning, he must win a greater share of women voters.

The poll was released as Senate Democrats privately appear to be bracing themselves for the likelihood that Strickland will not defeat Portman.

Just this week, a Senate Democratic political action committee headed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada cancelled $3 million worth of TV commercials on behalf of Strickland.

This week the Strickland campaign moved $400,000 in TV ads from Dayton, Cincinnati, Youngstown and Toledo to the larger markets of Columbus and Cleveland.

Strickland officials say they believe he can still win and have worked to tie Portman to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, who Portman has endorsed.

Portman this week called out Trump for his kind words about Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a statement, Portman said he did not “think anyone should be praising Putin, but I do believe that over the last eight years Russia has taken advantage of American weakness around the world, whether it be the Middle East or Ukraine. That’s why we must restore America’s leadership around the world.”

During a foreign policy forum hosted Wednesday by NBC, Trump described Putin as a “leader, far more than our president has been.”

Randy Ludlow of the Columbus Dispatch contributed to this report.