On a sunny day in central Ohio, Ohio Senator Rob Portman and wife Jane drove from Cincinnati to downtown Columbus, where they hopped the big mobile call-center bus and rode it to Romney Campaign headquarters, where dozens of volunteers were busy making calls to undecided voters.
The event, designed to highlight the one millionth voter contact in Ohio, was a party Sen. Portman, the state chair for the Romney campaign in Ohio, clearly enjoyed.
Watch Sen. Portman respond to reporters questions here and here.
With the smell of grilled burgers and hot dogs wafting through smoke from an outside grill, Sen. Portman, elected in 2010 in the GOP wave election that reclaimed all statewide offices and the Ohio House for Republicans, made a couple calls himself, as volunteers and media looked on.
Sen. Portman has long been considered a natural and smart choice for Mitt Romney’s running mate this year. The fact that he represents Ohio, a state that can make or break a presidential run and has voted with the presidential winner each time since 1944, has a numerical weight to it. And in light of recent polls showing President Obama maintaining a lead over Romney of between three to as many as nine in a state the GOP hopeful can’t lose if he wants to win in November, the addition of Portman to Romney’s ticket seems to be valued at 3-5 percent, according to one reporter at the event.
Sen. Portman ignored the We Ask America and Quinnipiac polls showing the president with a lead larger than the margin of error.
Reporters asked him if he feels any pressure to deliver Ohio for Romney, and if he does, how he’s going to pull that off if he’s also a Romney surrogate in other battleground states?
“I already feel the pressure,” he said with a big grin. “I’m chairing the effort here in Ohio … I’m feeling good about things because there’s just a lot of volunteers that are stepping forward.”
Portman, a former Congressman from Cincinnati who served as budget director and chief trade representative for former Republican President George W. Bush, said he hasn’t seen the kind of energy he’s seeing in this campaign in any previous election, including presidential races.
Sen. Portman reprized many of his stump speech talking points to volunteers today, telling volunteers that once undecided voters understand how bad things are and what Mitt Romney’s promising, they’ll vote for Romney in the fall.
Peppered through his talk were politically powerful phrases like “worried about the direction of the country … bring back hope and opportunity … pass along a better world to your kids and grand kids.”
“That’s why they’re showing up,” he said of the issues pushing people to become involved in politics in ways they hadn’t done before. Portman agreed that government plays a role in business development, but he stressed that it’s really “through hard work, making sacrifices for self and family, putting things at risk that you are able to build a small business, and that’s how we can get out” of the economic doldrums that have beset the nation’s economy.
Continuing with its tradition of being a game change state, Sen. Portman said Ohio will be a state that makes the difference. “We’re a swing state,” he told reporters outside the campaign bus he rode in on. He reminded volunteers that President Obama won Oho in 2008 by almost 5 points over John McCain and Sarah Palin, but that this year, after Ohio voters really compare the candidates, they’ll vote to give Mitt Romney a chance.
“It’s going to be close,” he said, emphasizing that the economic message—Obama’s policies have failed and Mitt Romney deserves a chance—will win out. It’s about jobs, the economy, debt and deficits, he said, and right now, it’s all “going in the wrong direction.” He cited last week’s disappointing report on GDP growing at a weak 1.5 percent as monthly job creation numbers also disappoint. Romney, he said, is offering a positive experience, record and policies to turn it all around. “I’ll work my heart out,” he told reporters who continued to press him on turning Ohio from Obama-leaning to leaning Romney.
Regardless of how many other states he’ll campaign for Mitt Romney in, Sen. Portman said his focus is on Ohio. “I do believe Ohio could make the difference again,” he said, recalling that in two of the last three elections, “there would have been a different result except for Ohio.”
Deflecting questions on the vice presidency, Sen. Portman said Romney has other qualified people to consider. What he didn’t defer on was the warning of troubled times ahead, when he ran for Senator in 2010. “I saw it, I felt it, I was involved in a couple small businesses that were affected … I still feel that way, we’re still not out of the woods, in fact, things are not getting better, they’re getting worse. If you look at the numbers that came out yesterday, the economy is actually weakening instead of strengthening.” Obama’s policies are not working, he said, “proof is in the number .. they’re not my measures or Republican metrics, it’s his [the president’s] own.”
Once Ohioans look at the facts, “where we are as a country, and what Mitt Romney is offering, which is tax reform, regulatory relief and domestic energy production that could turn this thing around, they’re going to make the right decision to give Mitt Romney a chance.”
“We gave Obama the ball and we did it in part because he [the president] went around to Ohio and other states to bring people together to solve big problems; he hasn’t done it, and he hasn’t shown the ability to do it. And I know Mitt Romney has the ability to and has the interest to. I believe that if we give Mitt Romney the ball, we’re going to see America come back, America’s promises will be kept. I think Ohio will get back on its feet as will the country. I’m an optimist, but it’s going to require a change of leadership and policy.”
President Barack Obama used his Saturday radio address to whack the Republican House and GOP rival Mitt Romney for resisting his calls for extending the Bush tax cuts for only the first $250,000 of household income, Politico reported.
Republicans, Obama said, are wrong in their economic approach. “And I know they’re wrong because we already tried it that way for most of the last decade,” he said. “It didn’t work. We’re still paying for trillions of dollars in tax cuts that benefited the wealthiest Americans more than anyone else; tax cuts that didn’t lead to the middle-class jobs or higher wages we were promised and that helped take us from record surpluses to record deficits.”
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