There's no worse feeling in politics than watching the reinforcements you so desperately need begin to pull up the stakes of their camp and head somewhere else.
That's what happened to former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) this week as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pulled three weeks of advertising out of the state where Strickland is running to unseat Sen. Rob Portman (R).
While that move was couched in the usual political parlance -- "strategic decision," "still very much invested in the race" and all that -- anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes watching politics knows what's happening: Strickland, amid sinking poll numbers and a bad trend line in the contest, is getting squeezed out.
There is, in every election, a finite amount of money that party committees have to spend in the never-ending quest to either retain their congressional majorities or take back a lost one. In the 20 months or so leading up to the post-Labor Day election sprint, every race is on the board for these party committees. Every one will get the full funding it needs for the candidate to have a chance to win.
Then, as summer turns to fall, reality sets in. There's only so much money, so much time and so many winnable races. Some races come on board in this final assessment. Others fall off.
Ohio -- and Strickland -- appear to be in that latter category. The former governor began his race against Portman more than a year ago with a clear, single digit polling edge. But as the election has neared -- and millions of dollars has been spent by a conservative super PAC excoriating Strickland for his record on jobs and taxes during his one term as governor -- the Democrat's poll numbers have taken a nosedive.
Strickland hasn't led in a poll conducted in the race since April. Portman, who is running a flawless campaign to date, has now opened up a high single digit edge.
And now, this. Without the support on the airwaves he badly needs, it's hard to see how Strickland comes back. That's a seat many Democrats thought would be part of the party's majority come 2017. Now Democrats are going to have to look elsewhere.