The Youngstown Vindicator on Friday, citing sources who had spoken with Strickland, reported that the former governor would challenge Republican Sen. Rob Portman in the 2016 race.
But Democrats in Washington said that, although he is considering a race, he has not yet made a decision. "Nothing has changed," said one senior party strategist.
A spokesperson for the Ohio Democratic Party also denied to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer that Strickland was running.
The onetime congressman, however, remains a top target of Democratic recruiting efforts in Ohio. But alhough he'd likely enter the race as a favorite, it's not a sure bet that Strickland would win his party's nomination. Cincinnati City Council member P.G. Sittenfeld, who is just 30 years old, has already announced his candidacy and makes a stark contrast to Strickland, who is 73.
Strickland, who is also a former House member, is currently the president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. If he does receive his party's nomination, the race against Portman won't be easy, even in a presidential election year in a swing state. The Cook Political Report currently rates the race as leaning Portman's way, and the first-term senator has already amassed nearly $6 million for his reelection efforts.
Strickland believes that number, combined with relatively pricey nature of the state, gives him a leg up over other potential Democrats.
"In Ohio, you've got to have resources," Strickland told National Journal in an interview earlier this month. "Running statewide is a huge challenge. I've run statewide in Ohio twice, I've raised the resources I needed twice, and I think I could do it again."
The Vindicator wrote that Strickland is talking to high-level donors today about his decision.
Sittenfeld has previously said that other Democratic candidates, including Strickland, would not affect his decision to run. But some Ohio Democratic strategists suggest that Strickland is a well-liked "godfather" figure within the state party and that a serious bid by the former governor would clear the field.
Sittenfeld, they say, is an up-and-coming figure in the party, who could instead run for governor in 2018. For what it's worth, he's already registered domain names for a handful of higher offices.
The two men are in contact frequently, and they spoke on the phone the day Sittenfeld entered the race.
For his part, Strickland has gone out of his way to indicate that he's just as physically qualified as the rest of the potential field—including bragging about his "good blood pressure" recently to a reporter. In that interview, he mentioned wanting to "be respectful of others who may be thinking of running as well" and said his decision would come down to whether "I am in the best position to run and win."
During his time in Congress, Strickland represented Ohio counties considered part of Appalachia. He was integral in helping former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton win those areas in her 2008 presidential primary. Political scientists in the state told the Northeast Ohio Media Group this week that a ticket with those two names could help Democrats regain standing with the state's working-class white voters.
This story has been updated with additional reporting, refuting the original Vindicator report that Strickland was running.
Alex Roarty and Matt Berman contributed to this article
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