Mitt Romney is inching closer to his nominating convention in Tampa, Florida in a little over two weeks from today. In a dead heat with President Obama nationwide, he trails him in almost all the dozen battleground states that will decide the General Election on November 6.
Team Romney has the former Massachusetts governor making appearances in a handful of key states this week, but whether its Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania or Florida doesn’t really matter, because the big prize, as it has been for every Republican dating back to the 1940s with the exception of Richard Nixon in 1960 who went on to win the White House, is Ohio.
Although diminished by two electoral college votes from the 20 it gave the winning president in 2008, then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, it remains a must-win state for Romney, who despite Republican ownership of state government attributable to the big across the board wins two years ago, trails the president by as few as four percentage points in some polls to as many as nine in others.
What can Mitt Romney do to seal his win in 91 days? One might be to tap as vice president Ohio’s junior U.S. Senator Rob Portman, who won his 6-year seat in the tea party inspired swept of statewide offices in 2010. Portman is GOP through and through, hearkening back to his early days in the 1980s when he became a trusted insider to the Bush family, when he became White House lobbyist for George H.W. Walker Bush, the nation’s 41st president, not to be confused with his son George W, the 43rd Commander in Chief.
Election watchers say picking Portman could boost Romney’s poll numbers by 3 to 5 percentage points, a big pickup in a state Romney cannot lose if he expects to win it all in three months. Portman’s strengths as detailed in this 347-page document are many, from being an experienced Washington insider to being a popular elected official from Ohio, a state many think will be the tipping point state for either the president or Romney, who so far is giving up more ground in the Buckeye State that he should at this point in the contest.
But the Republican convention hasn’t taken place yet, so expectations are that he’ll get a convention bump out of it, when voters who faithfully vote the GOP ticket and will do so again this year have a bona fide convention-sanctioned ticket to get behind or because Tea Party inspired voters, who don’t trust Romney to be the severe conservative he told them he was end up voting for the man from Bain Capital because he’s not President Obama, a choice that for many reasons couldn’t be more stark.
According to Congressional Quarterly Weekly, Portman is a confidant of the Bush family. He worked for 43 as his budget director and then chief trade representative. Before that, he worked for 41 as a congressional liaison. He’s a protégée of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois and served as a liaison between the White House and House Republicans. He played a minor behind-the-scenes role as the debate-prep partner of Vice President Dick Cheney.
Portman was dubbed “The Mule” for his “persistent promotion of the administration’s tax cuts. Portman shares the vision of both 41 and 43, which accounts for why he’s seen as a Bush family loyalist, going back to 1980 and 41’s failed attempt to win the White House.
As the AP wrote in April of 2006, for an administration that a cherishes loyalty, it’s difficult to find a more faithful supporter than Ohioan Rob Portman.
Maybe Mitt Romney should read the New York Times to help him decided if picking Portman is the right and smart thing to do to boost his prospects of nabbing Ohio this election cycle.
The Times wrote in March of 2005 that it was Portman’s standing at the White House that propelled him to a new position. “A friend of Mr. Bush for 17 years, Mr. Portman is credited with helping the president win Ohio’s 20 electoral votes in a close contest in November,” it said, adding that Portman is “on a first-name basis with Karl Rove, now deputy chief of staff for policy at the White House, and Joshua B. Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, who regularly consult him on domestic issues.”
Not worried that Portman could tip Ohio to Romney, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern is ready for Portman as VP.
Redfern called Portman the architect of the Bush economy, then said, “As Rob Portman travels the state, we invite him to defend his record as the architect of the Bush economy. Mr. Portman has some nerve talking about unemployment in communities that were devastated by his job-killing trade agreements. We need a U.S. Senator who will help move our country forward, not one who would take us back to the policies that got us into this mess.”
Portman has been stumping for Romney in states other than Ohio, even though he told reporters recently that his home state will be his focus. GOP sources say Portman will be in Colorado on Wednesday, appearing as President Barack Obama arrives in the state for a two-day campaign swing. The Portman event is part of the Romney campaign “bracketing” strategy to counter Obama’s message on trips,” CNN reported.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is neck and neck with Portman as a safe if not smart, compatible pick for Romney. Also a surrogate for Romney, Pawlenty will appear in Michigan on Wednesday and Thursday, then head to New Hampshire Saturday for a state Republican Party event.
And Portman and Pawlenty aren’t the people on Romney’s VP short list. Romney will stump alongside Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. He hooks up again on the tour with Portman on Saturday in Ohio. Sen. Portman attended an opening Tuesday of a Romney campaign office in Ontario, Ohio.
Team Obama is ready for a pick of Portman. Obama for America’s Ohio state director fired off an email recently that said “most Americans don’t know anything about him.”
“If and when Romney does select him, we need to be able to tell the full story about his record on Day One, which could very well be in the next few days,” Greg Schultz said.
Schultz said a lot can be learned from Portman in the two years he’s been a U.S. Senator. The most damning pieces of his record involve choices he made as a senior member of the Bush-Cheney administration and conservative congressman, Schultz declared, reminding recipients of the email of the consequences of Portman’s tenure with 41 that still reverberate on a national scale.
“As one of the architects of the top-down Bush budget, Portman practically invented the policies that punished middle-class families while exploding the deficit, and crashing our economy,” he said, adding this caveat, “It’s our responsibility to make sure he isn’t elevated to a position where he can do it again, this time, as vice president. Let’s make sure we’re ready.”
Democrats even offer a page to speak out on Portman.
Although Romney has played his cards close to his vest on his pick for VP, a practice he seems to do with any issue or topic, speculation is rising that, with 18 days left until the convention in Tampa, he needs t o pick someone soon to change the discussion from him not releasing more years of tax returns to that of a new unified team that can sweep Team Obama from the White House because the race is so tight nationally.
Among the facts of his history Democrats will force him to explain, is that while Portman was budget director, the national debt rose by $500 billion, as ABC News reported last month. For deficit hawks, especially of the Tea Party ilk, lowering, not raising the national debt, is what drives them and what they say the won’t compromise on.
Two would-be U.S. Senator candidates, one from Indiana and one from Texas, say they are going to Washington to not compromise on increasing debt levels no matter what.
Also troubling for Portman at a time when trade imbalances and outsourcing jobs are frowned upon, on his watch at chief trade representative for Bush 43, the trade deficit with china increased by 21 percent.
Sen. Portman may also have to explain why he said in 2007, in the build up to the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression, that the sub-prime mortgage crisis wouldn’t have any real world impact on the economy?
It also appears from an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer that Sen. Portman, from 1984-1986, was a registered agent for foreign governments at the lobbying firm of Patton, Boggs & Blow, where among other clients he represented a the Haitian dictatorship of the day.
Raising taxes isn’t on Romney’s agenda, but it was on Portman’s agenda just last year, when a Columbus newspaper reported that Portman, a supercommittee member, said that he would agree to accept modest tax increases if Democrats would agree to deeper spending cuts.
If Mitt Romney wants to defeat President Obama, he’ll have to win Ohio to do it. To win Ohio, where he currently trails the president by a margin that’s growing, especially among single women, Latino’s and independents, he needs a game changer pick. A bold pick, according to conservative thought leaders like Bill Krystol, would be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the mastermind behind the austere budget Romney has called “marvelous” and that he’s sign into law if he was in the White House.
While Christie and Ryan would be ideological picks of the highest order, electrifying the Tea Party constituency, picking Portman might show Romney isn’t the risk taker others want him to be, because he’s not looking to be overshawdowed by the likes of a firebrand like Christie or the Ayn Rand disciple that Ryan is. Instead, he may want a steady, experienced deal maker who knows how Washington works because he’s spent virtually his entire professional career working there.
Whom ever he picks, Mitt Romney will have to be all-in on his pick, because Team Obama is loading their guns and ready to fire when ready, knowing Portman’s strengths are really his weaknesses, and they are as wide as a barn door. So you don’t have to be an expert marksman to hit your target, when the target is as wide and broad as Portman’s resume is.
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