Sen. Rob Portman and former Gov. Ted Strickland faced off at the second senatorial debate Monday night with more character attacks than policy plans.
The debate, hosted by WBNS-10TV and the Columbus Dispatch, kicked off with questions about Ohio’s economy. The candidates sparred over job loss and their past performances in office.
“He (Strickland) lost 350,000 jobs when he was governor. Nine out of 10 of them, by the way, went to other states,” Portman said.
Strickland, who was governor 2007-2011, cast blame for Ohio’s job loss during the recession on the federal government and on Portman’s position under former President George W. Bush.
“It was a national recession, and you were George Bush’s trade representative and budget director leading up to the national economic collapse,” Strickland said. “You had a lot more to do about the job loss in Ohio and across America than I did.”
Strickland placed importance on higher education when discussing job creation in Ohio. He boasted about how he froze college tuition in his first two years and how in his four years Ohio had the lowest increase in tuition across the nation.
“I’m proud of the record that I have in fostering education and making it high quality and affordable,” Strickland said. “I’d like to contrast my record with Sen. Portman’s. When he was George Bush’s budget director, he proposed cutting millions and millions out of Pell Grants, the largest in that program’s history.”
He also spoke about Portman’s opposition to refinancing student loan debt at a lower interest rate.
Portman countered by focusing on job stagnation under Strickland.
“It’s clear that what Gov. Strickland did didn’t work, because we fell to the bottom of the heap,” Portman said. “We were 48th in the country in job creation.”
The two candidates also went back and forth on their parties’ presidential candidates.
“I believe (Hillary Clinton) is an honest person,” Strickland said. “It doesn’t mean she hasn’t made mistakes, and she has admitted these mistakes. I don’t believe there’s any evidence that she’s actually lied to the American people, as some would suggest.”
The former governor later attacked his opponent for his delayed unedorsement of Donald Trump, calling it a “political calculation.”
Portman, the Republican incumbent seeking a second term, continued to deflect the presidential election throughout the night, but called his decision to not support his party’s nominee “extraordinary.”
“This race is actually not between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton,” Portman said. “This is between Ted Strickland and me. It’s a comparison of our records and our public policy plans going forward.”
The candidates will debate again on Thursday at Cleveland City Club.