Ohio GOP senator says campaign wants to show ‘contrast’

CINCINNATI (AP) – Ohio’s Republican U.S. senator said Thursday his campaign is trying to quickly highlight the contrast between him and his new Democratic opponent in the 2016 race.

Rob Portman’s campaign has come out swinging against former Gov. Ted Strickland. It greeted Strickland’s candidacy announcement Wednesday with a “Retread Ted” website, then followed Thursday with online banner ads criticizing Strickland for jobs lost during his governorship.

“I don’t necessarily think it’s an attack,” Portman told reporters on a conference call Thursday. “It’s just setting out the differences.”

The first-term senator said he’ll keep promoting economic efforts to help working families, while claiming Strickland would take Ohio backward after leaving the state “in terrible shape” as governor.

“I wanted to be sure and establish that contrast early on,” Portman said.

Strickland said the job losses came amid the nationwide recession and that he had taken steps to get Ohio’s economy on an upturn by the time he left office. Republican John Kasich defeated him in his 2010 re-election bid.

The 73-year-old former congressman said this week that his campaign will focus on expanding job and education opportunities for everyday people, and on being the “strong, outspoken, aggressive advocate” for working people he said Portman hasn’t been.

Cincinnati city councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, 30, was already seeking the Democratic nomination. Strickland’s announcement ratcheted up attention to what’s expected to be a high-profile, high-spending race during a presidential campaign year in the swing state.

“It’s going to be competitive no matter who the opponent is,” Portman said. “And certainly, we will be prepared for it.”

Portman, 59, also a former House veteran, and a former White House budget chief and U.S. trade representative, reported as of December having $5.8 million on hand. A supporter also recently announced launch of a super PAC to independently raise funds.

Portman was a close supporter of Mitt Romney in 2012 and was under consideration to be his running mate. Strickland, meanwhile, was an active campaigner for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign when she defeated Barack Obama in Ohio’s primary.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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