COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland landed the backing of the president and vice president Wednesday as he faces a surprisingly persistent Democratic primary opponent in a race for U.S. Senate.
The endorsements by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden come a day after Strickland’s opponent, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, began running TV ads statewide attacking Strickland’s record on gun control. The ads suggest Sittenfeld would “stand up to” the influential National Rifle Association, but Strickland would not.
In endorsing Strickland, Obama called the ex-governor and former congressman “a passionate and proven champion for the middle class.” Biden said Strickland’s personal story of overcoming adversity has contributed to a commitment to working families.
Sittenfeld’s campaign suggested the Democratic establishment must be “mighty nervous” about his momentum to bestow such lofty endorsements, noting support he’s landed from numerous Democratic local officials, former Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste and some large Ohio newspapers.
“But no endorsement — no matter who it comes from — can change Ted’s A-plus rating from the NRA — or the fact that he voted against background checks, a ban on assault weapons and every other common sense gun safety measure that was ever put in front of him,” said Sittenfeld campaign spokesman Dale Butland.
Strickland’s campaign replied, “It is disappointing that P.G.’s campaign is attacking President Obama and Vice President Biden’s endorsement.”
Sittenfeld has tried to make gun control an issue in the race to distinguish himself from both Republican incumbent Rob Portman and Strickland, who says he has moderated some earlier stances on guns in the face of recent high-profile mass shootings and police killings.
Obama vowed earlier this year only to back candidates who support “common sense” gun restrictions, and footage of those statements was used against Strickland in the Sittenfeld ads.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that the president is focused on candidates who “support and will promise to support” gun safety legislation.
“Obviously, an individual’s record matters, but when it came to that particular promise, it related to, or gave, candidates the capacity to change their minds,” Earnest said.
“After all, that’s what we need to see,” he said. “We need to see more people in the United States Senate and the United States Congress change their mind and embrace common-sense gun control, gun safety legislation that could prevent at least some incidents of gun violence without undermining the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.”
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.