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Portman to Run, $1.5 Million in the Bank

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That didn’t take long either:

Former Republican congressman Rob Portman will announce that he is running for the Senate soon after Ohio Sen. George Voinovich’s retirement announcement, according to multiple Republican sources.

Portman’s official announcement is expected to take place on Wednesday.

Portman would give Senate Republicans an accomplished candidate who is likely to clear the primary field.

“He’s great on both policy and politics, and you don’t often find that combination,” said Hamilton County Republican party chairman Alex Triantafilou. “His experience in government, his experience in Washington and his understanding of Ohio would make him a tremendous force in the Senate.”

Portman would likely clear the Republican primary field, with other leading candidates unlikely to challenge him. A strong fundraiser from his days in the House, Portman is expected to have little trouble raising the millions necessary to mount a formidable statewide campaign.  (He also has over $1.5 million remaining in his House campaign committee, which he can transfer over for a Senate race.)

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Rob Portman will be the GOP nominee for the seat. Also, since it’s such a hot topic and since I keep seeing the same names tossed around, I’m going to break down the prospective Democratic candidates individually here.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-17th): I’d say it’s a safe bet that Ryan will emerge as the progressive favorite for the seat, but I wouldn’t get too excited about any Ryan candidacy myself. On top of representing a very Democratic district making the seat very safe for the very young Ryan (Ryan has won his 3 re-election bids with 78%, 80%, and 78% of the vote respectively),  who will very likely build up an awful low of seniority in the House over the next half century or so, Ryan is already a member of the very important Appropriations Committee. Don’t expect him to risk that in an effort to take on Portman, especially if Portman is starting with incumbent-esque cash.

Rep. Zach Space (D-18th): Space is actually a fairly intriguing possibility, but the bottom line here is pretty simple; Ohio Democrats as well as national Democrats will be putting maximum pressure on Space to stay in the House. The 18th district is still a heavily Republican one, and Space only won the seat in the wake of Bob Ney’s scandals in 2006. It’s hard to see how Democrats could hold this seat without incumbency, so Space won’t find much support if he wants to step out.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner: Brunner is in much the same spot as Space; the Democratic establishment is simply going to exert a lot of pressure on her to stay put. The Ohio Apportionment Board, responsible for drawing the districts in both the state legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives, is made up of 5 officials; the Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, and two members appointed by the state legislature, one by the Republicans and one by Democrats. So assuming that Governor Ted Strickland and Republican Auditor Mary Taylor are both re-elected in 2010, the Secretary of State becomes the deciding vote, making this one of the most important races in the state. Democrats will not be happy if Brunner opts to run for something else, thereby creating an open seat the GOP would likely throw everything they have at in order to keep control of the apportionment board and Brunner, like Space, would probably be punished with a lack of support were she to declare for the race.

Lt. Governor Lee Fisher: With Portman in the race and other, stronger, Democrats probably scared off by his bank account, Fisher probably becomes the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Fisher was elected Attorney General in 1990, but lost the office to Betty Montgomery after only one term, before going on to lose a very narrow gubernatorial race to Bob Taft in 1998. After that loss, Fisher largely disappeared from the Ohio political scene before resurfacing in 2006 as Ted Strickland’s choice for running mate, but Strickland’s choice was motivated largely by a desire to keep Fisher from making another run at the Governor’s office, and keeping the field clear for himself. So discounting his secondary candidacy in 2006, it will have been a full 20 years since Fisher scored a political victory when the election rolls around in 2010, and I don’t expect him to change his fortunes against Rob Portman.

The bottom line; this seat just got a lot safer for the GOP.

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