Poll: Strickland leads Portman in Ohio
© Getty Images

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) has a healthy early lead over incumbent Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTrump faces political risks in fight over GM plant GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration MORE (R) in the race for Ohio Senate, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Monday.

The survey finds Strickland taking 48 percent support over Portman's 39 percent.  Strickland is buoyed in the poll by independent voters, who support him 50 percent to 32 percent over Portman.

That’s a strong early showing for Strickland, who will likely begin the race for Ohio Senate at a financial disadvantage.

Last week, Portman announced he raised nearly $3 million in the first quarter of the year, bringing his total cash on hand to about $8 million. That puts him near the top of the money list for all senators up for reelection.

Strickland announced his candidacy midway through the fundraising cycle, so he likely won’t announce as impressive a haul. However, he’s been through statewide elections in Ohio before and will likely be a formidable fundraiser.

 “This poll shows one thing and one thing only, Ohio is doing so much better since Ted Strickland left office that people forgot what an awful governor he was,” Portman’s campaign manager Corry Bliss said in an email. “Our campaign will have the resources to remind every voter about Strickland's term in office when over 350,000 jobs disappeared, Ohio lagged behind 47 other states in job creation and he raised taxes by $800 million.”

Both candidates are well-liked in Ohio. Forty-nine percent of voters say they approve of the job Portman is doing, against 23 percent who say they disapprove. Strickland, meanwhile, has a 49 percent favorability rating, versus 29 percent unfavorable. However, the former governor has better name recognition in the state.

“Portman, who is now finishing his first term in the U.S. Senate, is not all that well-known to voters,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll. “Only slightly more than half of voters say they know enough to have an opinion of him. Strickland, who has been out of office since 2010, is very well-known. Three quarters have an opinion and it is favorable by 20 percentage points.”

Still, Strickland will have to beat back a primary challenge from a young Democratic upstart, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, if he’s to face Portman in the general election.

The Quinnipiac University survey found Portman with a big lead over the lesser known Sittenfeld, 47 percent to 24 percent. Eighty-nine percent of voters said they don’t know enough about Sittenfeld to have an opinion of him.

The Democratic establishment is lining up against Sittenfeld.

Last week, former President Clinton announced his support for Strickland, who also has the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D).