Portman tops Fisher in Ohio Senate race

COLUMBUS, Ohio | Republican Rob Portman, a former Ohio congressman and a veteran of former President George W. Bush’s White House, easily won the state’s open U.S. Senate seat Tuesday, keeping it in Republican hands.

Portman brushed aside criticism over his close ties to Bush and capitalized on the state’s angst over its depressing economy, coasting to a victory over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a race that that some Democrats gave up on months ago.

“This is a moment of truth and a moment of opportunity,” Portman said in his victory speech, saying Democrats have abused their power.

“The truth is they’ve expanded the reach, the power, the fiscal responsibilities of government beyond what the people asked for or expected,” Portman said. “The opportunity for all of us is to change directions, and to work together to bring back the investments, the growth, and the jobs.”

Portman had 57 percent to Fisher’s 39 percent with nearly all precincts reporting.

Democrats had hoped that the retirement of two-term Republican Sen. George Voinovich would give them one of their best chances of gaining a GOP seat. But Fisher’s campaign sputtered following the state’s Democratic primary and couldn’t match Portman campaign’s fundraising machine.

Portman will bring an impressive resume to Washington that includes stints as Bush’s budget director and trade ambassador.

Not well-known outside his home base of Cincinnati, Portman spent the first half of his campaign traveling to every county in the state in a camper while amassing a huge fundraising advantage.

Portman, 54, enlisted the likes of Bush fundraising guru Mercer Reynolds and billionaire financier Carl Lindner to help him bring in $15 million through September and swamp Fisher with television and radio ads.

Fisher, 59, faced a costly Democratic primary and ran only one statewide television ad against Portman in the weeks leading up to the start of early voting in Ohio.

“Sometimes the wind is at your back, and sometimes it’s in your face,” Fisher said. “This year it was in our face.”

Nevertheless, Fisher took responsibility for his loss, saying, “No excuses.”

Most polls showed Portman with a comfortable lead in the final two months of the campaign.

Sensing trouble, donors and Democrats ended up focusing their attention on closer races, most notably Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland’s re-election bid.

Portman, a fiscal conservative, already has a long resume in Washington.

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