For both pundits and the presumptive Republican nominee, the shortlist for the vice presidential nomination is getting even shorter.
And if there’s a unifying thread for the crystal-ball gazers, it’s throwing a pretty strong chance in the direction of Ohio Sen. Rob Portman.
While former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was stumping in Iowa today, the freshman Republican senator took the Romney bus out for a spin at six campaign events in Colorado.
It could be no small coincidence that Portman was picked as the campaign point man to counter the Colorado campaign visit by President Obama today, which hit Denver, Grand Junction and Pueblo.
Portman made stops in Greeley, Johnson’s Corner, Adams County, Jefferson County, Denver, and Pueblo County.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) took the western side of the state with an event for Romney in Grand Junction.
Portman, the former Office of Budget and Management director and U.S. Trade Representative under President George W. Bush, began the week rallying voters in his home state. On Tuesday, he opened a Romney Victory Office in Ontario, Ohio, before sitting down at a roundtable with farmers affected by the drought in Shelby, Ohio.
There’s also been a subtle shift in the releases flowing from Portman’s communications team to reporters. The senator routinely holds conference calls with Ohio reporters and, like any other member of Congress, sends out updates on his legislation and reaction to events such as the monthly Labor Department statistics.
There’s been more of a national campaign flavor to these communiques. A week ago, for instance, Portman’s communications director sent out a memo to reporters covering Obama’s trip to Mansfield, Ohio, with a distinct election angle. Pointing out the administration’s about-face on Mansfield Lahm Airport’s 179th Airlift Wing, which was on the president’s shutdown list, the Portman camp noted previous calls by the senator that went unanswered “but when shamed by one reporter during an election campaign, they suddenly promise swift action despite months of inaction.”
Portman has introduced a handful of bills since May, in this order: one requiring the Treasury to issue Pro Football Hall of Fame coins, one to place FDR’s D-Day prayer at the World War II Memorial, the Synthetic Drug Control and Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention acts of 2012, the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization Act of 2012, one to give golfer Jack Nicklaus a gold medal, the Global Conservation Act of 2012, the End Government Shutdowns Act, and a bill introduced last week to “affirm the authority of the president to require independent regulatory agencies to comply with regulatory analysis requirements applicable to executive agencies.”
The Global Conservation Act has Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) as co-sponsors. Portman, Snowe, Udall and Whitehouse are co-chairs of the Senate International Conservation Caucus.
The bill seeks to “better manage the federal government’s existing conservation programs and making them more cost effective and efficient” and “strengthen the capacity of the United States to lead the international community in reversing renewable natural resource degradation trends.”
“Preserving our nation’s wildlife and scenic treasures spurs job creation and bolsters our economy as people engage in activities such as tourism, sport hunting and recreational fishing,” Portman said at the end of June. “This bill will establish a process for identifying innovative approaches to further enhance the economic benefits of conservation both at home and abroad.”
Portman’s bill to end the threat of government shutdowns in the event of a budget impasse paints a stark contrast with Congress of the 1990s, where Newt Gingrich’s House welcomed public budget face-offs with looming shutdown threats.
But it also paints a picture of a safe — even conflict-averse — running mate for Romney, should he decided on the senator.
Byron York wrote today that Portman fits with Romney’s penchant for caution, unflashy style, desire for experience, and belief that the veep shouldn’t headline the ticket. “Portman has experience as a representative, a senator, and a top official in the executive branch; he is an entirely plausible president should something happen to a President Romney,” York said.
Over at NBC News, Chuck Todd and Co. officially named the final three as Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.): “Portman would be the insider, someone who knows the ways of Washington and who could help govern starting on Day 1.”
At Investor’s Business Daily, David Hogberg noted that the Wikipedia tea leaves read in Portman’s favor. Checking the pages of the top VP contenders, the only entry that has recently undergone substantial editing is the Ohio senator’s.
“Yesterday, when his page was copied into a Word file, it had 15 pages, 3,787 words, and 21,499 characters. As of this writing, it has 13 pages, 3,210 words, and 18,022 characters,” Hogberg wrote. “…By the looks of it, two main portions have been removed from the page, a list of bills that Portman has sponsored and the roles he played in negotiating trade agreements with Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.”
That includes removal of the not-super-presidential football coin and Jack Nicklaus bills.
In just a few hours today, Portman’s InTrade chances went from nearly 33 percent to 38 percent. Pawlenty is running at 15 percent as of this writing.
The domain name RomneyPawlenty.com was created days after Election Day in 2008, was updated on April 17, and expires Nov. 13, according to WHOIS. RomneyPortman2012.com was created last October and was updated on April 18. RomneyPortman.com was created in March 2009, was updated last September, and expires next March. All domain names are unavailable.
For his part, Portman has demurred as much as the next short-lister on his VP odds.
“I’ve spent a lot of time around the state, I’m sharing the campaign for Gov. Romney here,” Portman said Tuesday in Ohio, as reported by Yahoo News. “I’m going to work my heart out for him no matter what. And I really believe that is what it comes down to.”
Pawlenty is also playing every bit the loyalist, doing events in New Hampshire this weekend for Romney, who is planning a weekend bus tour.
Pawlenty was asked at today’s opening of a campaign office in Jackson, Mich., if he would return there when he was vice president.
“We’ll know soon enough,” Pawlenty quipped.
But when elaborating on the rising conservative stars of the future, Portman made the tail end of Pawlenty’s long list.
“You’ve got this tremendous new governor in Nevada Brian Sandoval,” Pawlenty said. “If you haven’t heard of him, you will. He’s terrific. Susanna Martinez in New Mexico, the first Hispanic Republican woman governor in the history of the country. Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, tremendous reformer, outstanding governor and leader. Marco Rubio, the rising star and senator from Florida. Then you go up to South Carolina, you’ve got Nikki Haley the governor of South Carolina, Bob McDonnell in Virginia, Chris Christie in New Jersey, Rob Portman and Paul Ryan, the budget chairman. And many others. David Petreaus.”