Fremont, OH (WTOL) - Ohio Senator Rob Portman (R) has generally said he would support the Republican presidential nominee no matter the outcome of the primaries. On Friday, he exclusively told WTOL 11's Viviana Hurtado that he is endorsing presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.
"I have said for a long time that I intend to support the Republican nominee. Republican voters have now gone through the process, they have selected Donald Trump, and so I'm supporting Donald Trump for President," affirmed the incumbent Senator.
Portman is one of a handful of so-called vulnerable Republican lawmakers throughout the country who are in tight races they could lose.
At play: the Donald Trump factor. Some candidates are staying far away. Others say Trump doesn't factor into their local races and issues.
Then there are those who have jumped on the Trump train and hope to ride it to victory.
In the latest polls, for example, a Public Policy Polling (PPP) conducted on March 10, 2016, Senator Portman is locked in a statistical dead heat with his opponent, Democrat and former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland - 40 percent to 41 percent.
In our WTOL 11 interview, Portman hit Strickland hard on the economic front, criticizing the former governor for Ohio's economic standing when he left office. The Republican pointed to the Buckeye state’s ranking as 48th in the nation for job creation and the loss of 350,000 jobs. Strickland’s governed during the Great Recession.
Portman noted that Republican leadership, including his own, has turned around Ohio’s economy.
"Ohio is doing better, finally, than the rest of the country because of Republican policies put in place. Unemployment is better, more jobs are coming in. Again, top 10 in the country. But it's not good enough," said Sen. Portman.
A gamble for Senator Portman is how Donald Trump will factor in Ohio. Political analysts say Trump has alienated blocks of voters, including women and suburbanites. But the presumptive Republican nominee has also attracted new people to the GOP, including blue collar voters.
Ohio's Senator race, like the one for President, will be close, coming down to the voters who show up at the polls. With seven months to go, both contests are up for grabs.