As a congressman, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Cincinnati) voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. As U.S. trade representative in the 2000s, he supported trade deals with China and South Korea.
NAFTA and deals with China and South Korea have cost Ohio thousands of manufacturing jobs. Portman’s Democratic opponent Ted Strickland voted against them while a congressman.
However, the numbers show Portman’s pro-trade record isn’t hurting his re-election chances.
FiveThirtyEight, a firm that bases political projections on a combination of national polls, on Monday estimated Portman had a 96 percent chance of re-election.
Portman — who has raised about $16.6 million and has $7 million on hand, according to the Federal Elections Commission — has benefited from brothers Charles and David Koch. The ultraconservative, oil industry billionaires and the political groups they formed have spent some $30 million on negative advertisements against Strickland, the former governor’s campaign says.
That’s more than in any other Senate race.
PolitiFact, a website that rates political claims, says the assertion by Strickland — who has raised about $9.3 million and has nearly $600,000 on hand — is true.
Portman, like Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, first supported but now opposes the Trans Pacific-Partnership, which is a proposed trade deal between the U.S. and Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
“His tortuous, twisted explanation about his position on the TPP now represents exactly the kind of D.C. double-speak that frustrates Ohioans about Washington politics and D.C. insiders,” Strickland said in June on his campaign website on the one-year anniversary of Portman’s TPP flip-flop. “In the Senate, I will be proud to continue my proven and consistent record of opposing these kinds of damaging trade policies in order to protect American jobs and Ohio’s working people.”
Nonetheless, Portman, who took first took office as a senator in 2011, was attacked for being pro-trade in his first campaign and it didn’t stop him from being elected. This year, he has focused on non-controversial issues such as combating opiate addiction and human trafficking.
On Twitter, Portman lobbied for the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act, a bill focusing on education and treatment. “#CARA will help get people the treatment and recovery services they need so they can reach their full God-given potential,” Portman said in an Oct. 20 tweet.
A March news release from Portman’s senate office noted he has authored five anti-trafficking laws signed by President Barack Obama. They include faster notification about missing children and allowing child victims of trafficking to get help through the Violence Against Women Act.
Portman this year said climate change is real and caused by humans. Many Republicans, including presidential candidate Donald Trump, say it’s a hoax despite about 98 percent of all climate scientists who’ve studied the issue saying its real and the hottest temperatures in history being recorded in recent years.
However, Portman voted against the Obama’s administration’s regulations to reduce power plant carbon dioxide emissions, the biggest cause of global warming. And his campaign website calls for expanded drilling for natural gas and oil.
Strickland believes in climate change. He noted that while governor from 2007-2010, he helped pass clean energy standards — now frozen by the Republican majority legislature — that he said saved Ohioans over $1 billion on their electricity bills and created 25,000 jobs.
“As senator, I will continue my efforts to build a clean energy economy and position our communities to benefit from all this new economy will bring—more jobs, lower electricity rates, and better public health,” Strickland said.
Climate change is one of several key issues that Portman and Strickland disagree on. Portman voted for the disastrous Iraq War. Strickland voted against it.
Portman opposed the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal in which Iranian sanctions were dropped in exchange for Iran reducing its uranium stockpile for 98 percent of for 15 years. Strickland supports it.
Portman wants to repeal Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act. Strickland wants to improve it by reducing costs such as allowing Medicare Part D to negotiate for lower drug prices like the Department of Veteran Affairs does.
Portman opposes allowing women to have abortions except in cases of rape and incest. He supports allowing employers to deny providing health care to their employees if it involves paying for contraception or abortions.
Strickland has flip-flopped on abortion. As a congressman, he voted to ban third-trimester abortions except to save the mother’s life, and also voted to ban allowing minors to get transportation for out-of-state abortions. However, Strickand says he now favors abortion rights. He’s been endorsed by Planned Parenthood.
Strickland also flip-flopped on gun control. As a congressman in 1994, he voted against the assault rifle ban. He now favors expanding background checks.
Portman said he’s a “proud defender of the Second Amendment.” He’s backed by the National Rifle Association.
Green Party candidate Joe DeMare is also running a long-shot campaign for the Senate. DeMare has raised about $7,700 and has about $1,850 on hand.
On his website, he calls for massive reforestation and a moratorium on new natural gas and oil drilling to stop climate change. DeMare supports universal health care, and says there are always ways to avoid wars.
DeMare also supports abortion rights and a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United campaign spending ruling.
“For too long, the wealthiest people and corporations have been in control of this country, and they have been putting into place laws and policies that benefit them, while hurting the majority of Americans,” DeMare said on his campaign website. “It’s time that changed.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.