Since a video of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump came out — where the businessman makes lewd comments about sexually assaulting women — Republicans across the country have been fleeing the orange dumpster fire that is the Trump campaign. However, for many Republicans “with a conscience” the problem is not that they did so, but rather when and how they did it.
This perfectly portrays the situation surrounding Ohio’s junior senator, Rob Portman, who handled his unendorsement of Trump in probably the worst way possible. In the hours after the video tape was released, Portman first defended the GOP nominee — saying he felt the remarks were “offensive and wrong” — but added that Trump “was right to apologize.” Of course, as cleveland.com’s Henry J. Gomez pointed out, Trump just gave a “qualified apology,” only offering his condolences “if” anyone was offended.
But as the hours dragged on and more prominent Republicans jumped ship, Portman may have realized his own political career was in jeopardy and finally did the moral — or politically expedient — thing to do. In a statement from his campaign, Portman said, “As I said yesterday, Donald Trump’s comments were offensive and wrong. I had hoped to support the candidate my party nominated in the primary process. I thought it was appropriate to respect the millions of voters across the country who chose Donald Trump as the Republican Party nominee. While I continue to respect those who still support Donald Trump, I can no longer support him.”
Rightfully, Portman’s unendorsement didn’t come without criticism. News outlets around Ohio quickly began to pour on much-deserved scrutiny, with The Youngstown Vindicator writing that, “[Portman’s] delay is unfortunate because it had the effect of portraying [him] as a political opportunist. He should have been one of the first Republican officeholders in the country to repudiate Trump. By the time he did, the list of Republicans abandoning ship was growing by the hour.”
Portman’s political opponents were quick to point out the senator’s lack of judgment, too. Democratic candidate for senate and former Ohio governor Ted Strickland told The Toledo Blade that, “Donald Trump is unfit to be the president of the United States of America and as a result of Rob Portman’s continued support of him, Rob Portman is unfit to be a senator from the state of Ohio.” Strickland’s campaign joined the chorus, releasing ads that called Portman a “coward” and statements that said Portman “panicked in a dead-of-night, transparent attempt to save his own political ambitions” and is “the most spineless, self-serving politician in America.”
Even President Barack Obama — on the stump for Strickland in Columbus last week — had the gull to call Portman out as well. “I understand that Ted’s opponent has finally withdrawn his support from Donald Trump after looking at the polling,” Obama said. “So I guess it was okay when Trump was attacking minorities, and suggesting that Mexicans were rapists… and insulting Gold Star moms, making fun of disabled Americans. I guess that didn’t quite tip it over the edge. Why was that okay?”
So pretty much everyone agrees that Portman’s unendorsement of Trump was merely the self-serving political move it appeared to be. For many, it was just too little, too late. Even Ohio’s GOP chairman Matt Borges has been open about possibly not voting for Trump, saying there would be “no repercussions from the party” for elected Republicans who felt the same way. “Trump could still conceivably withdraw,” Borges said. “If another shoe drops, he almost has to. And we are all standing by, shellshocked, waiting for it to come.” Of course, Ohio’s governor John Kasich — who never endorsed Trump at any point — certainly looks like he’s got a spine attached to that big ol’ buttface of his.
But the worst thing about Portman’s unendorsement of Trump is who he announced he would be voting for — Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who Portman said he’ll write-in. There are three problems with this — for starters, Pence still supports Trump. Secondly, as pointed out by WCPO in Cincinnati, Pence isn’t even on the ballot in Ohio as a write-in candidate and Portman’s vote for him “won’t count.” WCPO continued to say that Portman writing in Pence is just a “symbolic statement” and “pretty much as effective as voting for Mickey Mouse.”
Furthermore, as Jim Obergefell (the lead plaintiff in the case that legalized same-sex marriage) pointed out, Portman picking Pence is a slap in the face to people like Portman’s son. Portman, whose son is gay, had the courage to at least come out in support of same-sex marriage, but Pence opposed gay marriage in Indiana and even signed legislation that allowed business owners to refuse service to same-sex couples. So the hypocrisy presented by Portman’s “safe pick” is still pretty pathetic.
But will Ohio voters even notice Portman’s dilemma and subsequent political pandering? Hopefully. Because for some reason he continues to lead Strickland with only a few weeks left to go — and history will definitely remember.