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Government and Politics

Portman helps open Romney campaign headquarters to mixed reviews
Ohio senator considered VP possibility
This story is part of a special series.

Karen Kasler
Senator Rob Portman greets campaign volunteers at the opening of Mitt Romney's Ohio campaign headquarters.
Courtesy of Karen Kasler
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The opening of a presidential campaign headquarters is rarely big news. But a campaign launch this weekend was. And as Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler reports it wasn’t because of the presence of the candidate, but because of one of his supporters.

Karen Kasler on the opening of Mitt Romney's Ohio campaign headquarters

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It’s not unusual for a U.S. Senator such as Rob Portman to be on hand for the opening of the state presidential campaign office of the candidate for his party. But Portman is also a leading contender to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. Several hundred Republicans were on hand to cheer him and other GOP officeholders to kick off a weekend of planned door-knocking and phone-calling for Romney in all 88 counties.

An hour before he spoke, a couple of Democratic lawmakers were across the street under a huge anti-Romney billboard, blasting both Romney and Portman.

Tracy Heard is a state representative from Columbus, and she’s worried the Republican Party will put Portman on the ticket. 

“You know, he was the director of OBM at the time under President Bush, so I think it kind of gives a great foreshadowing of what we could expect in terms of economic policies from him if he were the number two.”

And Senator Charleta Tavares of Columbus says she’s suspicious of a possible strategy of making a lawmaker from this key swing state the VP nominee. 

“It worries me that they would have that kind of narrow mindedness about the state of Ohio that simply because you have a legislator from Ohio that the public is going to be duped into supporting them just because they carry the Buckeye banner.”

Across the street at the Romney headquarters, the opinion of some party faithful is strong for Romney, and mixed for Portman.

Joyce Clegg and Joan Gordon, both of Columbus, think he’d be a good running mate for Romney. 

“For me, yes. I very much enjoy his approach to interacting with people and his amazing experience in politics as well as law and business.” 
“Right – he’s got the same integrity going as Mitt Romney has. They would be a good, good twosome.”

But Jan Abshire of Reynoldsburg isn’t impressed. 

Kasler: “You say you haven’t heard a whole lot about Rob Portman – 
Abshire: “And what I did hear was not good, positive.” 
Kasler: “So having him on the ticket you wouldn’t necessarily think is a good thing?” 
Abshire: “You know, I don’t know enough about him to answer that, to be very honest.”

Her thoughts are reflected in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, which shows 30 percent respondents have an unfavorable opinion of Portman with 19 percent calling their view of him favorable – and 51 percent have no opinion about him. And among Republicans with an opinion, 49 percent view him positively, 51 percent negatively. And among conservatives, the split is 39 percent favorable to 61 percent unfavorable.

Ted Dibiase of Dublin says portmab’s possible place on the ticket doesn’t matter to him if Portman is the vice presidential candidate. 

“I think that we have to get Obama out of office – I mean that’s the big thing right now. And I think though, Portman would be a great candidate, he’d be fine in there. I’m more pushing for Rubio, myself.”

As for Portman, he continues to say that he’s not gunning for the VP slot, and won’t even hint as to whether he’s in talks for the position. 

“Look, I, you know, from the very start, even long before there was much speculation I said this is going to be up to the Romney campaign. I’m not going to reveal anything on my side, so – it’s up to them. I’m interested in doing the job I’m doing, honestly. I want to keep representing Ohio in the United States Senate.”

Mitt Romney himself will be back in Ohio on Wednesday to fundraise in Cincinnati - which incidentally is Portman’s hometown. And as has been typical in this campaign already, when one candidate is in Ohio one day, the other isn’t far behind – President Obama will be in Cleveland on Thursday.

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