Republican Portman keeps Senate seat in Ohio
© Greg Nash

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP to White House: End summit mystery US to provide additional 0M in defensive aid to Ukraine Senate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit MORE (R-Ohio) is projected to win reelection to his seat, fending off what was initially seen as a highly competitive challenge from former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D).

The race was one of the most closely watched in the country.

The Associated Press called the race for Portman at 7:30, just as polls closed.

Strickland said he called Portman to concede and congratulate him shortly after AP declared the Republican the winner.

“Tonight’s results are not what I hoped for, but I am so grateful to those who have worked so hard to support our effort and for the opportunity to speak out over the course of this campaign on behalf of hardworking Ohioans,” he said in a statement.

"Our campaign was about making sure that every Ohioan who worked hard and played by the rules has this opportunity and the chance to fulfill their full potential,” he said. "This is a basic and powerful idea that I believe is at the center of the American dream, and it is one that I will never stop fighting for."

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers eye ban on Chinese surveillance cameras | DOJ walks back link between fraud case, OPM breach | GOP senators question Google on Gmail data | FCC under pressure to delay Sinclair merger review Top Senate Republicans question Google over Gmail data practices MORE (R-Miss.) congratulated Portman on his victory.

“Whether it’s his leadership to combat the heroin and prescription drug epidemic, effort to end the scourge of human trafficking, or his commitment to always fight for Ohio workers, there is no better choice to represent Ohio’s priorities in Washington,” Wicker said in a statement.

Democrats saw the crucial swing state as an opportunity to pick up a seat in their effort to retake control of the Senate. Portman was consistently ranked as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the upper chamber this year.

But Democrats’ hopes faded in recent months as Portman rose in polls.

Strickland had led in polling in the Buckeye State as recently as May, but by June the two were tied. The former governor had bet on his wide name recognition and positive favorability in Ohio to pull out a victory.

Strickland and his Democratic allies also used a similar strategy to Democrats in other close races, trying to tie his opponent to Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff: Surveillance warrant docs show that Nunes memo 'misrepresented and distorted these applications' Chicago detention facility under investigation following allegations of abuse of migrant children Ex-Trump aide: Surveillance warrants are 'complete ignorance' and 'insanity' MORE and his string of controversies.

But Portman kept a safe distance from Trump throughout the campaign season, never appearing with him at any events.

The former congressman and trade and budget leader under President George W. Bush initially endorsed Trump. Portman withdrew his endorsement a day after a tape was published of the presidential candidate speaking lewdly about women, spurring Portman to declare, “I can no longer support him.”

Portman also benefited from some high-profile endorsements, like the United Mine Workers of America, a local self-described Black Lives Matters affiliate, major newspapers and local Teamsters and Operating Engineers union affiliates.

He began to pull away from Strickland in polling over the summer and had soon opened a double-digit lead. Polling in the last week had Portman well ahead, with Quinnipiac University having him up 18 points over Strickland.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee began delaying spending for Strickland in August and pulled its advertising completely in October.