When Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman stepped up to the podium at the Akron Press Club luncheon, the well-behaved partisan audience got a closeup of the prototypical Un-Trump.
Casual open collar, lean, unthreatening, a sweep of gray hair betraying his boyish manner, a regular guy – all of it Un-Trump evidence of his selfie as a “Common Sense Conservative”.
As it happened, even his speech as the candidate for reelection against former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland followed the safest route, narrowly content to tell us what everyone in the room already knew: Good grief. There’s a drug crises in the land.
It wasn’t until some questions from the audience led him down the unscripted off-ramp that we heard, if only briefly, that he wants to delay the nomination of Merrick Garland – a highly qualified jurist, says Portman – because it would be “better for the country”. Better than what? His practiced imprecision can throw the unsuspecting.
There’s more to fill out the image, unspoken. Un-Trump Portman is still the same guy who voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Vigorous pro-life supporter. Opponent of protection of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems. Climate denier. Insists on repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with something or other.
Don’t get me started on the Common Sense Conservative who had tagged along with Mitt Romney throughout swing-state Ohio leading the political gurus to assume that he was in line for the vice presidency.
There are times when it would be fair to say that,as I occasionally read on my computer, his message has no content.