Koch group boosts effort in Ohio Senate race
© Greg Nash

Americans for Prosperity Ohio, a group backed by the Koch brothers, is stepping up its efforts in support of Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTrump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong 10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable GOP braces for impeachment brawl MORE’s (R-Ohio) reelection bid.

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The group is launching a new website called WhenTedWasGov.com that targets Portman's Democratic opponent, Ted Strickland, and his record while serving as Ohio governor from 2007 to 2011.

The website contains a 90-second video, shared first with The Hill, that accuses Strickland of costing the state hundreds of thousands of jobs and imposing burdensome tax increases.

The digital ad also argues that Strickland overspent, reducing Ohio’s "rainy day" fund as unemployment surged due to jobs moving to neighboring states.

“His extensive, poor record is more than enough to disqualify him from ever holding office again,” Micah Derry, state director for Americans for Prosperity Ohio, said about Strickland. “Ohioans should remember that we fared worse than neighboring states during the global recession, and that was in large part due to Strickland’s policies.”

Strickland’s campaign pushed back on the new video, arguing that the former governor balanced the budget every year he was in office and cut taxes.

“Senator Portman’s rich and powerful friends have proven time and again that they’ll ignore the facts and say anything to keep Portman in Congress so he can continue pushing their agenda at the expense of Ohio’s working people,” said spokesman David Bergstein. “Newspapers, independent fact checkers and economists agree – Ted Strickland put Ohio on the road to economic recovery: he balanced every budget, cut taxes for every Ohioan, and by the time he left office Ohio had 5th fastest growing economy in the country.”

The conservative donor network led by billionaires Charles and David Koch has already poured millions of dollars into helping Portman, and Americans for Prosperity has a large grassroots operation that includes canvassing.

The race could be pivotal for determining which party controls the Senate.

The tight race between Portman and Strickland has grown increasingly contentious in a state President Obama won in both 2008 and 2012.

Portman has landed four endorsements from labor unions that backed Strickland in past elections.

Meanwhile, Strickland has lobbed attacks at Portman for supporting past trade agreements, a position at odds with GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff MORE.

But Portman has a significant cash advantage and has kept up a consistent lead in the polls.

It’s an uphill battle for Republicans this year as they seek to hold onto their slim majority in the upper chamber. Democrats need to net five seats, or four if they retain the White House, to regain the majority. They are defending 10 seats while Republicans must fight for 24.