Guest post by Seth Bringman
If the pundits are right, the best the Republican Party has to offer the country is a moderate-turned-Tea Party-extremist corporate buyout specialist and the man singularly responsible for the failed Bush policies that brought about the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Mitt Romney might actually be so full of himself that he wants to be his own Vice President. And if that’s the case, enter Rob Portman, a complete carbon copy of the presumptive nominee. He’s a white, male, middle aged, ultra-wealthy, predictable, uncharismatic, Tea Party-embracing supporter of policies that hurt America’s middle class. And he’s boring as all hell.
Can you imagine how inspiring Romney-Portman rallies will be? I can barely contain myself.
Mr. Portman is also joined at the hip to George W. Bush, someone Democrats revile, someone independents don’t like and someone Republicans would rather not talk about. After all, how often do we hear the Republican base waxing nostalgic about the Bush-Portman years?
Even Mitt Romney in 2008 said we needed change from Bush. And in this campaign, he says that his experience outside of Washington makes him qualified to be president. So perhaps it’s fitting for Romney to pick a decades-long Bush loyalist “ultimate Washington insider” as his running mate.
Portman embodies the very Bush policies that Americans now wholeheartedly reject – policies like the Bush tax cuts. Tax cuts for the wealthy didn’t help middle class Ohioans, and support for them is a big loser here in the populist Buckeye State.
While Portman would do little if anything to motivate the Republican base, he would do plenty to energize the Democratic side. Nothing gets labor riled up like job-killing trade deals, a policy Portman repeatedly championed. Given the uproar caused by Senate Bill 5, and Ohioans’ overwhelming rejection of John Kasich’s anti-union agenda, Romney would only further fan the flames of resentment by nominating labor’s enemy #1.
When it comes to Issue 2, it should not be lost that Rob Portman sat on the sidelines during the entire debate. Until recently (and even during the heat of the Issue 2 campaign), Portman’s campaign website stated that he supports collective bargaining rights for police officers and firefighters. But when those very rights were on the line, Portman submitted to John Kasich like the weak politician he is.
And Portman’s contortionism when it comes to taxpayer-funded bailouts must make Mitt Romney blush. Portman opposed the auto rescue even though he supported the bank bailout and inexplicably asked local taxpayers to help bail out his family’s business in Lebanon, Ohio. (He reversed himself after I issued several press releases pointing out his hypocrisy.)
Like many Republicans, Portman has discovered that American auto manufacturers are doing a lot better these days. He probably realized that it was a mistake to join the likes of Mitt Romney in turning his back on Ohio’s autoworkers. So after calling the auto rescue a “lousy deal,” he has now changed his tune, pretending that he supported the auto industry all along. Sound familiar?
Let me also say that I am not among those who think Rob Portman will help Romney “lock down” Ohio or that he’s our “favorite son” or that he’s a “proven vote-getter” or whatever the latest pundit chatter is. Portman won a single statewide election in a GOP tidal wave against a vastly underfunded opponent. And his old stomping grounds are solid Republican territory anyhow.
Portman’s record went unexposed to most voters in 2010 because Lee Fisher was so vastly outspent that his message couldn’t cut through. Were Romney to pick Portman as his running mate, the Obama camp would have plenty of capacity to tell voters in Ohio and across America exactly who Rob Bush is.
As it stands, Ohioans still don’t know who Portman is after 16 months in the U.S. Senate. Only three in 10 Ohioans approve of the job he’s doing and a full 45 percent of Ohioans don’t even know enough about him to have an opinion.
Yet despite all of Portman’s failings and no evidence that he’d help the Republican ticket win Ohio, maybe Romney has found his guy. Go for it, Mitt.
Bringman was Ohio Democratic Party Communications Director from May of 2009 until his departure last month. He now works as a public relations consultant, heading the firm High Street Solutions.