These days one of the favorite games among political junkies is prognosticating about who will be Romney’s vice-presidential running mate. An important criterion for selection, the “incredibly boring white guy” factor, previously has been examined by this writer and others.
Now, there seems to be a consensus among GOP political operatives as to who will share the bumper sticker with Romney within that group of potential VP nominees who exemplify that distinguishing “boring” characteristic.
That person is Ohio Senator Rob Portman.
Sensing an opinion wave for Portman within the last month, I asked a prominent GOP super PAC insider (name withheld by request) why Portman is the “chosen one” and this was the email response I received:
He could bring Ohio!!! And he is very experienced and he won’t spend $100,000 on clothes in two months! The goal this cycle is “safe, not sorry. But win Ohio!”
Packed within that email are several discussion points alluding to the GOP’s 2008 VP candidate (which are sure to be elaborated upon in the comment section of this post).
Notwithstanding a negative or positive opinion of the GOP’s 2008 VP candidate, Sarah Palin has significantly impacted the 2012 selection process, and it now looks like Senator Rob Portman will be the ultimate beneficiary.
Another veteran insider of past GOP presidential campaigns responded to my email which posed the question “Why Portman?” with this list of reasons:
Would actually be a great VP.
Not an ideologue.
Understands jobs and global economy as U.S. Trade Representative not OMB.
“Not OMB” is worth discussing, for this is a touchy Portman resume item that Team Obama is sure to exploit as a negative talking point if Portman is officially nominated.
From May 2006 until June 2007, Rob Portman served as President George W. Bush’s director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
When asked about the potential for President Obama and the Democrats to “denigrate” his OMB service, Portman was ready with an answer, as recently reported in a comprehensive piece in Real Clear Politics (RCP) titled “Does Portman Have the Edge in VP Sweepstakes?”
He told the Cincinnati Enquirer last month: “I was there for just over a year and I put out one budget … [which] was actually a balanced budget. And not even over 10 years but over five years and I’m proud of that.” He conceded, “Frankly it was a battle within the White House to get the White House and everybody on board with that … but imagine that, a balanced budget.”
So Rob Portman’s defense of his one year as OMB director includes a small salvo aimed at the Bush White House for rejecting his “pathway to balancing the budget in five years.” Now, by comparison, President Obama’s budget deficits are projected to be $977 billion in 2013, making President Bush’s $161 billion deficit in 2007 look like chump change.
This means Portman has plenty of cover when the Obama campaign unleashes their wild attack dogs in the last two months of the general election; there is no doubt that Portman will successfully defend himself and his record at OMB.
Portman’s first post in President Bush’s second term was as the United States Trade Representative. He worked in that position for one year before President Bush promoted him to OMB director in mid-2006.
To further understand the depth of experience that Senator Portman would bring to the Romney ticket, it is important to note that before serving two years in the Bush administration, Portman had a distinguished congressional career which spanned 12 years, from 1993 until May 2005.
Representing Ohio’s 2nd congressional district, Portman built a reputation for bi-partisanship, writing numerous pieces of legislation that were signed into law by President Clinton; but you can count on this part of his career to be completely ignored by Team Obama.
Instead, get ready to read how Portman was “Bush’s guy” who helped drive the economy into a ditch. You can almost hear Obama asking voters, “And this is the guy you want to let back into the White House?”
Well, the voters of Ohio had no problem sending Portman back to Washington after he served in Bush’s White House. In fact, when Portman ran for his current Senate seat in 2010 he defeated his Democrat opponent, garnering 57% of the vote to Lee Fisher’s 39%.
Now, in the midst of the 2012 election cycle when Romney is in search of a “boring white guy,” how could any guy who won an important state’s Senate race by 18 points possibly be that boring?
In response to the “boring” accusation, which supposedly helps Portman’s chances, here is an entertaining piece to the contrary which appeared recently on BuzzFeed (“15 Genuinely Interesting Things About Rob Portman”).
He’s hunts! He canoes! He bikes! He fishes! He speaks Spanish! (The latter could be a big benefit to Romney with a voting block that he needs to attract.)
So maybe he’s not that boring after all.
Consider Portman’s resume of 12 years as a congressman with stints as U.S. Trade Representative, OMB director, a U.S. senator since January 2011, and an Ohio political power player who is credited with helping Romney win the Ohio primary over Rick Santorum — and you have someone who is extremely well-qualified to be the GOP vice-presidential candidate.
Now many signs are pointing in Portman’s direction except this one.
Currently Intrade has Senator Portman’s chances of being selected as Romney’s VP rated at only 22%. (But Portman’s chances are increasing by the minute.)
Portman’s closest Intrade competitor is Florida Senator Marco Rubio. At the moment, Rubio’s chances that he will be Romney’s VP are rated at 24%.
This tight VP race raging at Intrade suggests that the general betting public is not yet up to speed on what many Washington GOP insiders and members of the media are saying about Portman’s real chances.
All politics aside, the primary job of the vice president is to step in and take over as president of the United States if called upon — and for that role, Senator Portman is well-suited.
In fact, Mark McKinnon, now a political media personality who served as media strategist for President Bush in 2000 and 2004, wrote in an email responding to my question “Why Portman?”, “The guy was truly made for the job.”
Compare that description to the now deceased Osama bin Laden’s stinging critique of Vice President Joe Biden. (Bin Laden called him “utterly unprepared” to be president of the United States.)
Captured documents revealed that bin Laden dreamed of targeting planes carrying President Obama and General Petraeus so our nation would be plunged into crisis under Biden’s leadership.
In the end, the contest between “the guy truly made for the job” and the one called “utterly unprepared” will not be the determining factor in whether Obama or Romney is victorious in November.
However, according to my sources, Senator Rob Portman is the one most likely to be standing on stage at the vice-presidential debate this fall.
Reserve your seat now — because a Biden vs. Portman match-up will be anything but boring.