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Portman's Insider Argument



Former Ohio Rep. Rob Portman is running for Senate in 2010. Bloomberg News photo by Dennis Brack

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.

The Rising

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."

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 25, 2009; 3:23 PM ET
Categories:  The Rising  
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Comments

"i like portman. He would be a great leader for OH. i know dems are going to bring GWB but i really dont think it will have any effect in '10."

What you mean is 'I hope nobody brings up the BUSH Administration thing' (I still like George Bush,but he relied too much on his advisors. One in particular Robert Portman who crafted and furvently supported the UNFAIR trade policies that cost 250,000 OHIO jobs. If people don't know these things you might be able to slip Portman under the radar and keep the power structure the way it is.

Well that won't work and the proof is Mike DeWine's 2006 campaign Sherrod Brown beat him by exposing a record, very much resembling the record that Robert Portman has. Mike Dewine lost by almost 60% of the vote.
Also remember the Governor Bob Taft fiasco and how everyone on the state ticket that was even remotely related to the Administration lost miserably.
Republicans need to take a good look at Thomas Ganley the alternative.

Posted by: gopflame | June 30, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

DDAWD--the minute I saw the photo i thought Reed (the repub operative) morphed with T. Sanford = Portman.

Posted by: rawreid | June 26, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

"@broadwayjoe - Perhaps you mean this story?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/25/AR2009062500445.html

Note the time stamp, 4:55 p.m.--4 hours before you posted. The least you could do is bother to use Google (or Bing!) before making an asterisk of yourself..

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 25, 2009 10:23 PM"
_____________
You're right, FB. I apologize. The Post was on this one. My earlier blast is retracted.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | June 26, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

chrisfox even if I accept your argument, unless you get the three biggest growing economies,(China, India and Brazil)to go along, what we do will not make a damn bit of difference, other than destroy our economy. I'm sure China would like that.(or maybe not because who then would buy all their crap.)

==

So "the economy" is more important than our long term survival.

Anyone wonder why I'm disgusted with Republicans?

The part you don't understand, frozen as you are in your infantile oppositional belligerence, is that anything that reduces our carbon output, be it conservation, cheaper energy sources, getting away from oil .. is good for the economy.

I am SO glad you people are out of power.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 25, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

@vbhoomes - Actually, China is ahead of us on fleet mileage standards. Your broader point is well taken (coal being a primary energy source), though China suffers from serious pollution problems in its cities. We move ahead on that and it's not a crippling burden, it's a marketing opportunity.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 25, 2009 10:27 PM | Report abuse

@broadwayjoe - Perhaps you mean this story?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/25/AR2009062500445.html

Note the time stamp, 4:55 p.m.--4 hours before you posted. The least you could do is bother to use Google (or Bing!) before making an asterisk of yourself..

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 25, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Hate radio icon and Hannity/Buchanan associate (allegedly) Hal Turner was arrested by the FBI for threatening
to...well, you can read about it below.

CNN, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, HuffPo, the NYT Times, and practically every national paper/media outlet reported on this--except the Washington Post...which is hot on the Portman story. Go figure.

Excerpt:

"A blogger and Internet radio host from New Jersey was arrested Wednesday by the FBI on charges he threatened to kill three federal appellate judges in Chicago.

The federal charges, filed in Chicago, alleged white supremacist Hal Turner called for the judges' murders after they affirmed on June 2 a lower court decision to dismiss challenges to Chicago's ban on handguns.

The three have each served as chief judge of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals: Frank Easterbrook, the current chief judge; Richard Posner, one of the best-known appellate judges in the country and a prolific author; and William Bauer, a veteran jurist and onetime U.S. attorney."

Full story:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-internet-radio-arrest-25-jun25,0,7879524.story

Major shout out to the Bureau. Well done.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | June 25, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

This is inside, inside baseball.

Who outside of the Buckeye State cares about Rob Portman? On second thought, who INSIDE the Buckeye State cares about Rob Portman? Is this what they're talking about at the Palm? In the Post cafeteria?

Mikey, the greatest entertainer of all time, died and Fix is talking Rob Portman.

Oy. Out.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | June 25, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

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.
This is a Congressman who voted for NAFTA, personally worked the house floor as Budget Director,also supported and voted for normalization of trade with China. That cost 3 MILLION U.S.jobs. 250,000 in Ohio alone. No we are not to happy with Rob Portman here in Ohio.

Posted by: gopflame | June 25, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Looks like a smart guy. He's learning from what Obama did and adapting it to his very different agenda (different office, different party). If he wins, a real possibility for the nominee for 2012.

I mean, if Sanford and Ensign are out, and Palin was a major factor in fundraising for Obama and driving away independents, and Huckabee has gone off the deep end in his quest for ratings and applause, and Romney is still Romney, and Huntsman is in China, I think the field is looking like Pawlenty, Jindal, and people like Thune and Portman. And I think Jindal will once again take a pass. He has a good sense of timing for the long term.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | June 25, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

"Oh! and he looks just too d***d much like Boehner, physically and intellectually for those of us who know him."

In the picture, he looks like a cross of John Edwards and Evan Bayh.

Posted by: DDAWD | June 25, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

vbhoomes:

There is actually little debate among scientists as to whether humans are contributing to climate change (global warming). Probably the same level of debate about whether HIV-1 is a causative agent of AIDS. I would direct you to the IPCC website (ipcc.ch) but you say you are skeptical about agencies with UN involvement, even though the IPCC includes most of the top climate scientists in the world. Try looking up Michael Mann and Richard Alley at Penn State University's website (psu.edu). Alley is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, an honor accorded only the most elite of scientists.

To give you an idea of the carbon that we are putting in the air, it is estimated that there is a NET increase of about 3 gigatons of carbon in the atmosphere every year. And that's only because our oceans and forests are cleaning the vast majority of what is produced.

Posted by: mnteng | June 25, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

chrisfox even if I accept your argument, unless you get the three biggest growing economies,(China, India and Brazil)to go along, what we do will not make a damn bit of difference, other than destroy our economy. I'm sure China would like that.(or maybe not because who then would buy all their crap.)

Posted by: vbhoomes | June 25, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

"It depends on where Brunner of Fisher stand on cap and trade(tax) and if it passes. Ohio is a coal firing state and is already hurting without punishing it with tax on their energy use. A cap & trade and public health care would so badly cripple the economy that nobody with a D in front of their name would have a chance. Politics is about timing, and Portman is timing it well. Posted by: vbhoomes"

Since, in any cap and trade system you may expect Hannah Coal and AEP to get particularly high initial allotments, cap and trade won't be much of an issue. Hannah owns lots of "moonscape", actually rather well groomed old strip mines, and many of them might do very nicely as bases for modern generation nuke power plants to replace the dinosaurs we currently have around the state. Should the one or two plants proposed for Portsmouth succeed, we could plant LOTS of power generation in scarcely populated areas in old coal country.

Health care? Any effective health care system would do wonders for making Ohio a great place for its numerous skilled tradesmen to work again. Health care costs have long been GM's and Chryasler's most intractable costs.

Portman can try to distance himself from Bush, and talk bipartisan, but the more convincing he is about it the less likely he is to get the nomination in the first place. And even given his time in what little of the Bush limelight, (a particularly unflattering limelight for a particularly unflattering light) he really ISN'T all that well known north of I 70 or East of the Virginia Military District. That is too much of the state for him to try to sell himself to as a moderate.

Oh! and he looks just too d***d much like Boehner, physically and intellectually for those of us who know him.

Posted by: ceflynline | June 25, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

vhoomes: the current rate of temperature change is happening at about a thousand times the pace of temperature changes from the fossil record. To deny that it's anthropogenic when we are restored sequestered carbon to the atmosphere in such quantities is too absurd to discuss.

Do you understand why a car gets warmed in the sun only when the windows are shut? Then you can understand why there is no doubt why the earth is heating up.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 25, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I don't deny the planet has gotten a littlille warmer but big deal, whether is not static, The earth will always be getting warmer or cooler. The science is being debated by Scientist on whether the warming is man made. I know you like to shut down debate on this subject, buts not going to happen because their scientist a lot smarter than me or you who say its the biggest crock to ever come down the pass. When the usual suspects like the UN and others are involved, I'm skeptical

==

That's a yes

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 25, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I don't deny the planet has gotten a littlille warmer but big deal, whether is not static, The earth will always be getting warmer or cooler. The science is being debated by Scientist on whether the warming is man made. I know you like to shut down debate on this subject, buts not going to happen because their scientist a lot smarter than me or you who say its the biggest crock to ever come down the pass. When the usual suspects like the UN and others are involved, I'm skeptical.

Posted by: vbhoomes | June 25, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

It's just maddening on these polls looking at the popularity of Obama versus his policies that there's no historical context as to how other popular Presidents did with this metric. I can see Republicans like Portman spouting this stuff, but why do mainstream media outlets feel the need to amplify the Republican message. Hey, guys! Republicans are NEVER going to say nice things about you and ALWAYS accuse you of bias! It's a campaign tactic. You don't need to do their work for them!

There, I'm done with the soapbox.

Posted by: DDAWD | June 25, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

It depends on where Brunner of Fisher stand on cap and trade(tax) and if it passes. Ohio is a coal firing state and is already hurting without punishing it with tax on their energy use.

==

I gather you don't care if we cook ourselves to death. Are you another science-denier?

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 25, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

i like portman. He would be a great leader for OH. i know dems are going to bring GWB but i really dont think it will have any effect in '10.

Posted by: dee150586 | June 25, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

It depends on where Brunner of Fisher stand on cap and trade(tax) and if it passes. Ohio is a coal firing state and is already hurting without punishing it with tax on their energy use. A cap & trade and public health care would so badly cripple the economy that nobody with a D in front of their name would have a chance. Politics is about timing, and Portman is timing it well.

Posted by: vbhoomes | June 25, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

A guy who proudly wears the albatross?

Nothing to see here but a pretty blue graphic.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 25, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

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