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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Kim Palmer and Susan Cornwell

COLUMBUS, Ohio/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Rob Portman is largely ignoring Donald Trump, which is hard to do in U.S. politics today, but the strategy seems to be working for the Republican senator in his re-election bid in Ohio.

As congressional Republicans across the country grapple with the Trump effect on their home-state campaigns, the mild-mannered Portman, 60, may be pointing the way forward in his race, the nation’s most expensive Senate contest so far this year.

Last week in Columbus, the state capital, Portman made no mention of Trump in a campaign appearance, though the New York businessman is the Republican presidential nominee and Portman has endorsed him.

On Portman’s web site, Trump is absent. Portman has hit the campaign trail in Ohio with a Republican who had White House ambitions, but it’s the state’s Governor John Kasich, not Trump.

Kasich lost his bid for the party’s nomination to Trump. Since then, Kasich pointedly has not endorsed Trump, a property developer and television personality who has never held elected office and whose smash-mouth politics worries many Republicans who fear he may lose them votes in Senate and House of Representatives races.

Those concerns have been compounded by Trump falling behind his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in opinion polls.

Portman campaign manager Corey Bliss said his boss has never wavered in his support of Trump and there has been no conscious effort to de-couple Portman from the presidential nominee.

But a story on the web site last week reported that Portman, a veteran Washington insider, has yet to appear at a single Trump campaign event, or even in the same photo, with him.

While effectively disconnecting himself from his party’s nominee, Portman has led Democratic rival Ted Strickland by five to nine points in various polls since late July. Strickland is a 75-year-old ex-governor of the Midwestern swing state.

A Monmouth University Poll on Monday gave Portman a lead of 48 percent to 40 percent over Strickland, while Clinton had 43 percent of likely Ohio voters and Trump had 39 percent.

Portman does not view either presidential nominee as crucial to the Ohio election, Bliss said. “We are focused on our race and running for U.S. Senate,” he said.


With the Nov. 8 elections nearing rapidly, the Ohio race is the costliest U.S. Senate show-down in 2016. Candidates, parties and outside groups have spent $45 million, said the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group.

Portman worked briefly for former President George H.W. Bush, then was elected to the House. He resigned to be U.S. trade representative in 2005-2006, then director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for President George W. Bush.

Strickland, a former Ohio governor, previously represented southeastern Ohio in Congress for 12 years. That region of the state could play a role in the Portman-Strickland fight, but Trump himself is a major factor.

Paul Beck, a political science professor emeritus at Ohio State University, said despite distancing himself from Trump, Portman could still be hurt if Republicans are so turned off by the presidential nominee that they decide not to vote at all.

“These are real worries, and it’s a challenge to Republican candidates all over the country, but particularly to Rob Portman,” Beck said.

(Additional reporting by Kouichi Shirayanagi in Washington; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Alistair Bell)

Photo: U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) speaks during a session called “The New Congress” at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council meeting in Washington December 2, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

In recent weeks, President Donald Trump has been claiming that COVID-19 has been mostly defeated in the U.S. — which is laughable in light of how much infection rates have been surging, especially in Sun Belt states. But according to Washington Post reporters Yasmeen Abutaleb and Josh Dawsey, Team Trump has found a new coronavirus talking point: claiming that Americans can learn to live with the pandemic and the ever-climbing death count.

According to Abutaleb and Dawsey, the "goal" of Trump's White House and campaign allies "is to convince Americans that they can live with the virus — that schools should reopen, professional sports should return, a vaccine is likely to arrive by the end of the year, and the economy will continue to improve. White House officials also hope Americans will grow numb to the escalating death toll and learn to accept tens of thousands of new cases a day, according to three people familiar with the White House's thinking, who requested anonymity to reveal internal deliberations."

A Trump Administration senior official, quoted anonymously, told the Post that Americans will "live with the virus being a threat." And a former Trump official, according to the Post, said of Trump's allies, "They're of the belief that people will get over it, or if we stop highlighting it, the base will move on — and the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day."

Figures from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore show that the coronavirus pandemic continues to be quite deadly — especially in the United States. As of Monday morning, July 6, Hopkins was reporting a worldwide COVID-19 death count of more than 534,800 — and almost 130,000 of those deaths were in the U.S.

Biden's campaign has been asserting that the former vice president has a much better track record than Trump when it comes to pandemics. Democratic strategist and Biden campaign adviser Ariana Berengaut told the Post, "From really January on, Vice President Biden has been laser focused on the rising risk to the American people presented by this pandemic. You can almost imagine them side by side — Trump's leadership and Biden's leadership…. Trump has no plan for tomorrow, no plan for a week from now; so, there is absolutely no plan for the fall, and that's what encapsulates the whole arc of that contrast."

Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, told the Post that Trump's coronavirus response has been and continues to be an abysmal failure.

Garin asserted, "Trump is increasingly defined in voters' minds by his failing response to the coronavirus crisis, and virtually every action and position he's taken have been wildly out of sync with where the public is at on what should be done. Biden now has a remarkable opportunity to contrast himself with this failure of leadership that a large majority of voters see so clearly."