- Associated Press - Thursday, January 8, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) - Ohio’s Republican U.S. senator flexed his fundraising muscle and showed off party support Thursday amid speculation about who might oppose him for 2016 re-election.

Rob Portman’s campaign reported that it ended 2014 with $5.8 million on hand. The campaign also released a list of endorsements by some 250 Republicans across the state, including all statewide officeholders led by Gov. John Kasich, all Ohio GOP members of Congress led by House Speaker John Boehner, and county and city officials.

“It takes a team to make progress and that is why I am so gratified by the breadth and depth of the list of leaders endorsing me and joining our team today,” Portman said in a statement.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported this week that Cincinnati councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has begun accepting donations for a possible bid for the Democratic nomination to oppose Portman. Former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland has said he is considering running, and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of northeast Ohio is among other Democrats who might join the Senate race.

Some conservatives have said they’d like to see a primary opponent for Portman, who upset some by changing his position in 2013 to announce his support for same-sex marriage. But Portman’s fundraising ability and electoral experience - he was elected seven times to the House before his 2010 Senate victory - are likely to discourage potential Republican challengers.

Some Democrats see an opportunity in 2016 if Portman loses conservative supporters and their presidential nominee galvanizes Democratic voter turnout in the swing state. Would-be Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton won the state’s 2008 primary over Barack Obama, and husband Bill Clinton twice carried the state.

A conservative who is backing Portman, Cincinnati attorney Chris Finney, said Thursday that Portman’s race “could be the linchpin” for Republicans holding the Senate and also important to the Republican presidential nominee’s hopes of carrying Ohio. Finney said he respects the views of conservatives who have soured on Portman, but praised Portman’s performance as senator.

Portman, 59, said Thursday he will officially launch his re-election campaign in February with an announcement tour beginning in Columbus.

The former White House budget chief and U.S. trade representative had flirted with a run for the White House, but announced last month he decided against it to focus on getting things done in the new, GOP-led Senate.

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Contact the reporter at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell


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