WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new poll suggests that former Rep. Rob Portman has his work cut out for him to keep retiring Sen. George Voinovich's Ohio seat in Republican hands.
The Quinnipiac University survey of Ohio voters indicates that Portman trails two possible Democratic contenders in head-to-head match-ups in next year's midterm elections.
Voinovich, a two-term Republican, announced last month that he will not run for re-election in 2010. Portman, a former six-term congressman who also served as U.S. Trade Representative and director of the Office of Management and Budget in President George W. Bush’s administration, announced his intention to run shortly after Voinovich decided to retire.
In the poll released Wednesday, Portman trails Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher by 15 points, with 29 percent of those questioned undecided. And Portman trails Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner by 10 points, with 31 percent undecided.
Fisher, Brunner, and Rep. Tim Ryan are all considered possible Democratic contenders in the race for the open Senate seat.
The poll does show that Portman has a wide lead over state auditor Mary Taylor in the Republican primary.
"Portman has served in a number of national offices, but he has never served in a statewide office in Ohio, and it's possible he may not be well known outside of his home base in the southwestern part of the state," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Even in that home base, however, the political landscape has changed. Hamilton County, which Portman used to represent, went for George W. Bush in 2004 but it gave a majority of its support to Barack Obama in 2008."
Voinovich won his 2004 re-election by 28 points over his Democratic challenger. But times have changed in Ohio. Democrat Ted Strickland topped Republican Ken Blackwell by 24 points in the 2006 gubernatorial race and Rep. Sherrod Brown beat incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine by 12 points in the Senate contest. In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama edged out John McCain by four points for Ohio's 20 electoral votes.
The Quinnipiac poll was conducted January 29-February 2, with 1,127 registered voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.