Seven out of ten recent ads seen by Cleveland TV viewers favor incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who is running for an Ohio Senate seat against Ted Strickland, a Democrat and former governor.

Overall, 69 percent of the ad airings in the Cleveland TV market from October 1 through October 18 have favored Portman, or 451 out of 655, according to an analysis of ad airing data captured by the Political TV Ad Archive, downloaded on October 18. With just weeks to go until the November 8 election, which Portman is favored to win, the senator is doubling down on the message that he has played a key role in combatting an epidemic of heroin addiction and brandishing his bipartisan credentials, while criticizing Strickland’s time as governor.

To conduct analyses of ad airings in other key Senate races, download our data

Strickland, meanwhile, has been making hay from Portman’s endorsement of Donald Trump, which Portman withdrew after the 2005 tape of Donald Trump making remarks about assaulting women surfaced. He also attacked Portman’s legislative record on gun safety, making claims that PolitiFact rated as “False.”

Most of these ads have been playing exclusively in these last weeks of the race, replacing older ads aired earlier in the campaign.

Ohio is traditionally considered a battleground state; however, currently is predicting that the vote will go to Hillary Clinton by 65 percent. Even so, FiveThirtyEight predicts that Portman will win the Senate race.

The top five ads hitting the Cleveland airwaves this month are:

Sponsor: Portman for Senate, candidate committee. 

First aired: October 4, 2016   Airings: 138 and counting.

Transcript: “I’m Sheriff Phill Plummer. There are things you need to know about Ted Strickland. As governor, Strickland cut funding for drug treatment and prevention. Now Ohio is in the midst of a heroin epidemic that tragically takes more than a thousand lives a year. Strickland slashed mental health services, making it tougher for guys like me to keep you safe. I know the facts on Ted Strickland. Now you do too. Please join me in supporting Rob Portman. I know he’ll help keep Ohio safe.”

This ad from Portman’s campaign features a Sheriff Phil Plummer, from Montgomery County, which includes Dayton, and puts forth the message that Strickland has been a champion in combatting a national heroin epidemic. This fact check from states, “Faced with a budget hole in 2009, Strickland proposed cutting community-based mental health services by 34 percent and addiction treatment by 28 percent….Bottom line: The percentage in the ad might be a bit off, but Strickland did cut money for addiction treatment to balance the budget during the economic crisis….Still, total state and federal spending on mental health and addiction treatment increased over his four-year term.”



Sponsor: Fighting for Ohio, Super PAC.

First aired: October 7, 2016. Airings: 122 and counting.

Transcript: “Do you remember why we fired Ted Strickland in the first place? Just look at his record as governor and what went down the drain. Three hundred and fifty thousand Ohio jobs flushed away. Ohio’s Rainy Day Fund? Washed out. And Ohio taxpayers showered with $800 million in new taxes. We already got rid of Ted Strickland and his terrible record. Do we really want to flush Ohio’s future down the drain?”

In this ad from the super PAC Fighting for Ohio, whose top donor is Peter Thiel, a big supporter of Donald Trump’s candidacy, Strickland’s record as governor is attacked. The ad accuses Strickland of  “flushing away” Ohio jobs and that he “washed out” Ohio’s rainy day fund.


Both the imagery of flushing and the argument Strickland wasted Ohio rainy day funds have been used in previous ads.

This ad sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which ran 285 times in August, claimed Strickland cut services for children, while spending $250,000 remodeling his bathrooms in the governor’s mansion, and shows the imagery of a toilet flushing. PolitiFact rated these claims as “Pants on Fire!” Strickland did propose budget cuts while facing a shortfall after 2008 economic downturn. The ad, however, “suggests that the money used to renovate the bathrooms” for visitors — not the governor himself — at the governor’s mansion could have been used to fund those services, which was not the case.

Another ad, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ran 270 times in August, claimed that “[A]s governor, Ted Strickland left only 89 cents in Ohio’s rainy day fund.” PolitiFact rated this claim as “True,” while noting that Strickland’s defenders argue that the recession that hit the United States and Ohio when Strickland was in office made it necessary for him to drain the $1 billion fund.


Sponsor: Strickland for Senate, candidate committee.

First aired: September 20, 2016. Airings: 122 and counting (October only), 325 and counting overall.

Transcript: “I carried a rifle in Iraq and Afghanistan so we wouldn’t have to worry about terrorists using them here. But now Rob Portman’s blocking common-sense laws to stop terrorists and criminals from getting guns. Sen. Portman said no to background checks on all purchases. He even voted to allow people on the terrorism watch list to buy guns. Sen. Portman, I fought to keep America safe. Why won’t you?”

Since September, Strickland’s campaign has been airing an ad criticizing Portman’s legislative record on safety. The ad earned a “False” rating from PolitiFact Ohio: “The ad distorts facts on many levels. People on the terrorism watch list could already buy guns before the votes in question.”



Sponsor: Strickland for Senate, candidate committee.

First aired: October 10, 2016. Airings: 82 and counting.

Transcript: “There are moments in our history that measure the character and courage of our leaders. Where did you stand on Joe McCarthy, George Wallace? This is one of those moments. Rob Portman endorsed Donald Trump. Even with his history of degrading women, Portman stood by Trump. Even after seeing Trump brag about sexual assault. Then Portman panicked and scrambled to save himself. History will judge Rob Portman a coward. What will we do?”

This ad by Strickland’s campaign went on the air soon after news broke of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, featuring Donald Trump bragging about kissing women and grabbing them by the genitals. Portman withdrew his endorsement of Trump on October 8.

Sponsor: Portman for Senate, candidate committee.

First aired: October 4, 2016. Airings: 59 and counting.

Transcript: “I’m General Barry McCaffrey. I was a drug policy director for the Clinton Administration. Senator Rob Portman has played an essential role in national leadership. Sen. Portman did the hard work. He was able to pull together people from both parties and get the CARE Act passed to deal with this wave of heroin addiction that’s sweeping the country. We need people like Rob Portman. He’s one of the finest public servants I ever met.”

This ad also uses a trustworthy surrogate to talk about Portman’s record combatting a national heroin epidemic, but unlike the ad above, keeps the focus with Portman rather than attacking Strickland. The ad emphasizes Portman’s bipartisan credentials.


Note: All dates are rendered in UTC time zone. Currently, Cleveland time is four hours behind UTC, i.e. 12:00 PM UTC is equivalent to 8:00 AM in Cleveland Ohio.