Portman's Insider Argument
In a political world where candidates are falling all over themselves to tout their "outsider" credentials, Rob Portman is a rare exception to the rule.
Portman, a former Congressman and Bush Administration official, is casting himself as a deal-making insider in his campaign for the seat being vacated by Sen. George Voinovich (R) in 2010 -- portraying his resume as just the sort of thing that will help him get things done in Washington.
"I know enough now about where the bodies are buried [and] how the Senate works that I know I can be effective there for Ohio," Portman said during a recent interview with the Fix as part of our "Rising" series.
Portman's resume includes twelve years representing a Cincinnati-area House district as well as two one-year stints in the Bush Administration as the director of the Office of Management and Budget and as U.S. Trade Representative.
It's those latter two jobs that Democrats have seized on to argue that Portman is fundamentally flawed as he seeks a Senate seat in one of the states hardest hit economically over the eight years of a Republican president.
The argument goes that Ohio voters won't be keen on electing a close confidante of a President who remains deeply unpopular in the state.
Portman treads carefully when asked about the burden of Bush. He calls his time in the Administration "valuable" but quickly notes that "I was working for the Administration [and] what I now want to do is to go back to what I was doing before which is to be my own boss."
Portman added that he doesn't hear about his time spent in the Bush Administration as he moves around the state meeting voters, insisting that the lone issue on Ohioans' minds is putting someone in the Senate who can help create jobs and work across the aisle to get things down.
"People aren't looking back," said Portman. "They're looking forward and they're worried."
Portman, however, is reticent to look too far in the future -- particularly when asked about whether he may well be one of the future leaders that the GOP so badly needs if he manages to win in Ohio next year. (Portman was, after all, considered to be Sen. John McCain's running mate back in 2008; make sure to check out our "case for" and "case against" Portman as the pick.)
"I am not running to be the spokesman for the Republican party," Portman said. "I am not running to be a national leader."
That statement aside, Portman did offer three ways in which the Republican party nationally could -- and should -- heal itself.
First, the party must do more outreach to moderates, minorities and, well, just about anyone who will listen. "You don't lose an election and purge your ranks," said Portman. "You lose an election and you try to expand your ranks."
Second, Republicans need to find a way to communicate their own vision for the country better than they have to date. Portman cited the disconnect between President Barack Obama's personal popularity, which remains sky high, and the popularity of his policies, which are marginally lower, as a sign that opportunity exists for the GOP. "There is great potential for us to benefit if we are smarter about saying not only the reasons we don't like what Democrats are doing but that there is a better way," said Portman.
Finally, Republicans need to not only hone their message but also find messengers who can carry that message in an effective way, according to Portman. He said that Obama's genius during the 2008 campaign was that "even people who didn't agree with him on the issues voted for him because they liked him" -- an idea that Republicans need to find a way to replicate.
Portman is already borrowing some of Obama's results-oriented, post-partisan rhetoric -- if not his renegade outsider approach -- on the campaign trail.
Asked why he could win in a state that leaned toward Democrats in the 2006 and 2008 election, Portman argued that voters are looking for "people who can work across the aisle and focus on solutions and get stuff done....that's my record."
Posted by: gopflame | June 30, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rawreid | June 26, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: broadwayjoe | June 26, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 25, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 25, 2009 10:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 25, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: broadwayjoe | June 25, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: broadwayjoe | June 25, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: gopflame | June 25, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: fairfaxvoter | June 25, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DDAWD | June 25, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mnteng | June 25, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: vbhoomes | June 25, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ceflynline | June 25, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 25, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 25, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: vbhoomes | June 25, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DDAWD | June 25, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 25, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dee150586 | June 25, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: vbhoomes | June 25, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 25, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.