Strongly benefiting from Barack Obama's unpopularity in the state Rob Portman has taken a 45-38 lead over over Lee Fisher in the Ohio Senate race.
Both of the candidates continue to be relatively unknown. 44% of voters don't know enough about Fisher to have formed an opinion and the same is true for 43% when it comes to Portman. But Obama's approval rating in the state is a pretty dreadful 41/54 spread and Fisher's attracting only 9% of the vote from people unhappy with Obama. It's going to be difficult for Democrats to win anywhere that the President's disapproval is over 50% if their candidate doesn't have a strong ability to make voters separate their feelings about Obama from their feelings about him/her.
Portman's lead over Fisher is built on what's becoming a pretty regular formula for Republican candidates across the country. He's winning independents 43-30, and he's taking 83% of his party's voters while only 71% of Democrats are committed to Fisher.
There's a lot more hope for Democrats in this race than there is in the Governor's race in Ohio though. 21% of the undecided voters are Democrats compared to only 9% who are Republicans so Fisher has a lot more potential room for growth than Ted Strickland does.
Those undecideds in Ohio tell an interesting story. 54% of them voted for Barack Obama to only 28% who supported John McCain. But they also now disapprove of the President's job performance by a 40/46 margin. The folks who voted for Obama, are disappointed in him now, but aren't sold on the Republicans are probably this year's ultimate swing voters. The way they end up deciding to cast their votes in November is going to make and break a lot of politicians' fortunes.
Things aren't looking great for Fisher now but there's a definite path to victory for him- get the undecided Democrats to come home and reduce the enthusiasm gap by getting his party's voters more interested in the election. Easier said than done, but more than some Democratic candidates can hang their hats on.
Full results here