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A vice-presidential sieve: Part IV – Portman

John McCain has suggested a running mate for Mitt Romney.

“I think it should be Sarah Palin”, he told CBS April 4.

It is presumed McCain was joking. Fear of Palin within a heartbeat of the presidency may have cost him the election in 2008.

It is because McCain chose the Palin for political reasons, without vetting her for suitability and qualifications, that political calculations will take a back seat in the vice presidential selection process in 2012.  Demographic appeals to race or gender will be far less important than whether the nominee would be able to transition seamlessly into the presidency should the need arise.

That has been the message coming out of the Romney camp, and spokespersons now are downplaying even the idea that a woman on the ticket might bolster its appeal. An article in The Boston Herald April 7 quoted Jennifer Horn, identified as a Romney “grass-roots organizer”, as saying:

“I think that gender politics are beginning to fall flat. The American voters and people recognize that the same issues are important to all of us. Women and men will look for Romney to choose a VP who is highly qualified. There are certainly ample strong women candidates, just as there are ample strong men candidates. It’s more important to women voters that he chooses the most qualified candidate.”

If true, that should raise the stock of Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. And, as of Easter weekend, his prospects on Intrade were rated at 11.1 percent – behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 25.2 percent, but ahead of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie  at 10.7 percent.

US Sen Rob Portman (R-OH)

Portman’s qualifications are the main reason why Major Garrett, a congressional correspondent for National Journal (but writing in The Atlantic) stated flatly April 5 that:

“Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee, Wisconsin sealed the deal, and he will pick Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio as his running mate.”

Garrett disclaimed any inside information, but he argued that:

1. Romney and Portman have “genuine rapport”.

2. Portman endorsed Romney before Ohio’s March 6 primary, and some credit him for Romney’s win there.

3. Portman is the best vetted of those mentioned, because:

He served in the White House Counsel’s Office and the Office of Legislative Affairs under President George H.W. Bush.

He served in two cabinet positions under George W. Bush – US trade representative in 2005 and Office of Management and Budget director in 2006.

He currently is the junior senator from  Ohio, so

4. He is the best qualified of those mentioned.

But he also has a reputation for something less than an electrifying personality, so

5. Romney “won’t suffer charisma comparisons”.

Does this paragon have any flaws? Garrett notes them:

“Portman’s a bore, and their ticket would be boredom squared, or squares squared; he offers nothing to women voters or Latino voters; he carries the taint of Bush-Cheney policies; and he’s not conservative enough for the Tea Party.”

Not exciting enough, either, according to Christine Morabito, executive director of the Greater Boston Tea Party.  The Boston Herald article quoted her as saying:

“He needs someone exciting that conservatives can really get behind. I think if he had that, any issues with women would resolve themselves. Romney has the experience. He needs the excitement factor.”

Stephen Koff of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, agrees with Garrett about Portman’s qualifications. He even adds some very important ones:

“Portman knows how to campaign and debate. Garrett didn’t note this, but Portman has been a go-to guy for Republicans preparing for high-stakes, televised presidential debates.”

Here’s another important consideration: While not a popular governor from a swing state, he is a popular senator from a swing state. Ohio has 18 electoral college votes.

It may be a little early to hand him the vice presidential nomination. But certainly Rob Portman should be on anyone’s short list.

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One thought on “A vice-presidential sieve: Part IV – Portman

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