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ICYMI: "Frustrated" Strickland Losing Support in Appalachia

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Today, RealClearPolitics takes an in-depth look at Ohio's Senate race in Appalachia as Ted Strickland, who "appeared frustrated," loses support in his former congressional district. Earlier this week on Rob's "Moving Ohio Forward" Summer RV Tour, Rob and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) hit the campaign trail in Appalachia visiting the Rosebud Bergholz Mine and meeting with mine workers. In June, the United Mine Workers of America endorsed Rob for re-election to the U.S. Senate. The Mine Workers endorsement was an important recognition of Rob's leadership protecting Ohio’s coal jobs, and was considered a major "political blow" to Ted Strickland who was endorsed by the union in 2006 and 2010 while running for governor.

Over the last few months, Strickland has desperately tried to convince Ohio voters that the 2016 Ted Strickland from Washington, D.C. is the same as the 1996 Ted Strickland from Appalachia. Unfortunately for him, nothing will change the fact that while Rob was fighting for Ohio coal jobs, Ted Strickland was being paid $250,000 at his Washington, D.C. 'dream job' running the lobbying arm of an anti-coal, anti-gun, pro-tax, pro-Obamacare liberal special interest group. 

Strickland, Portman Spar Over Ohio Coal Country
James Arkin
August 26, 2016
RealClearPolitics

...But former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, the Democrat challenging Portman for the Senate this year, hails from Appalachia; he represented this area for a decade in Congress and won a high proportion of the vote in both of his runs for governor. Portman is making an aggressive push in Strickland’s old stamping grounds, arguing the former governor has abandoned the values of Southeastern Ohio. The incumbent senator hopes high vote margins here will help him secure victory this fall...

Portman hardly mentioned Strickland – or Trump and Hillary Clinton – during his conversations with the Rosebud Mining Co. employees here, but the dozen miners were clearly supporters of the senator and of Trump.

...Speaking with reporters after his tour of the mine, Portman argued that Strickland is not the same politician who once represented coal country. He used to be a much more conservative Democrat, one who was pro-gun and pro-coal, Portman argued, but Strickland’s time working at a liberal think tank in Washington after losing re-election in 2010 changed him.

“He’s turned his back on this part of the state in many respects,” Portman said. He pointed to Clinton’s comments, and said Strickland – who called them “inartful” – should heave denounced them more aggressively.

“People around here don’t appreciate politicians who say one thing and do another,” Portman added. “Unfortunately, what you’ve seen with Ted Strickland, my opponent, is he went from pro-coal to anti-coal just as soon as he got out of office and went to Washington and took a job there and he continues to be taking these positions that support what Hillary Clinton has said and what President Obama has done."

...Portman has visited the region multiple times trying to increase his name identification here and outside groups have swamped the area with advertisements attacking Strickland’s record as governor and his work for the liberal Center for American Progress in the intervening years. A new $1 million ad buy, announced this week by Freedom Partners Action Fund, a group with ties to the Koch Brothers, attacked Strickland’s governorship and labeled him bad for coal.

State Rep. Andy Thompson, a Republican who represents a district in eastern Ohio next door to Bergholz, said at first he was worried that Strickland’s popularity in Appalachia could have a negative impact on his own re-election race, but noted that he’s pleased with the work Portman has done in the area.

“For those of us down ticket, it’s a relief that [Strickland’s] proving to not be very popular, and some of the stuff about fighting for you and fighting for the middle class doesn’t work when you’re a high-paid lobbyist in D.C.,” Thompson told RCP.

And, of course, this area of the state is one where Trump’s economic populism is particularly well received. He’s zeroed in on the white, working-class areas like Appalachian Ohio as critical to winning the White House. Rep. Bill Johnson, the Republican congressman who represents Strickland’s former district, said Trump support means a great deal.

“It’s clear they are adamantly opposed to political elites like Hillary Clinton that want to shut down the coal industry,” Johnson said. “Political elites like Hillary Clinton who think they’re above the law and can carelessly disregard our national security and carelessly mishandle our national security secrets. They’re fed up with that, and that’s who Ted Strickland is aligned with, and they’ve made it very clear they’re not going to support that."

The Portman and Republican efforts appear to be working, at least to some degree. P.J. Deluca, a miner at Rosebud Mining who was there for the senator’s visit, said he voted for Strickland in 2006, but not in 2010, and is solidly behind Portman this year. His reasoning mirrors the attack message Republicans have waged against Strickland: Deluca called him a “turncoat” for working for a liberal group in D.C.

Strickland “sided with the EPA, sided for all this other stuff like clean energy and all that. Totally turned his back on the coal industry,” Deluca told RCP. “When he was here, he was all about the coal, he was all about what was in the present. He went to Washington, he became part of the agenda down there.”

...Strickland admits that he’s behind in the race right now, and in the interview appeared frustrated by some of the Appalachia-related attacks, particularly regarding his work at the Center for American Progress – where he said he led a study about the damage Western coal was causing for miners in Appalachia. Still, he’s convinced that by November he’ll have the same support in Southeastern Ohio he had in his races in the past...