4 reasons GOP insiders want Rob Portman for VP

The Week's Editorial Staff
The WeekApril 23, 2012

Mitt Romney has a long list of names from which to choose his running mate, but the Republican Party already has Romney's No. 2 all picked out

The Republican establishment reluctantly picked Mitt Romney for presidential nominee, and now that he has the top spot on the GOP ticket all but wrapped up, says Zeke Miller at BuzzFeed, GOP insiders have crowned a frontrunner for the other half of the ticket: Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). BuzzFeed's Miller recently spoke with Republican National Committee members gathered at a meeting in Arizona, but he's hardly the first to learn that Portman's name is purportedly on Romney's short-list, or perhaps even on the top of that list. But unlike some other possibilities being tossed around, Portman isn't exactly tamping down the speculation about his possible nomination. So what makes Portman such a popular choice among the party elite? Here, four reasons: 

1. He's from a key swing state
Portman was an early, important, and enthusiastic Romney surrogate in Ohio, and a number of GOP strategists give him credit for Romney's 10,288-vote victory over Rick Santorum in the Buckeye State's Republican primary. As important as Ohio was to Romney's securing the GOP nomination, it will be even more important in November, and Portman is popular in his home state. "He's from Ohio, and we need to win Ohio, it's that simple," one GOP official tells BuzzFeed's Miller.

SEE MORE: Mitt Romney's VP choice: 6 questions he has to answer

2. Portman isn't Sarah Palin — and that's a good thing
The GOP elite's warmth for Portman stems as much from "a desire to avoid another risky, flamboyant pick like Sarah Palin as it does for his ability to help carry an important swing state," says BuzzFeed's Miller. In many ways, Portman is the anti-Palin: He's not flashy, has been well-vetted by the Washington media, and is seen as a serious, experienced, even boring pick. "He could be president from day one," former aide Barry Bennett tells the Dayton Daily News. "If Sarah Palin was the 'Hail Mary,'" Portman is the safer "three yards up the middle" play. In other words, says Martin Longman at Booman Tribune, he fits the crucial post-Palin adage that "when picking a running mate, first do no harm." 

3. He reinforces Romney's economy-focused message
A former U.S. Trade Representative and White House budget chief under George W. Bush, Portman is "cool, analytical, data-driven, and conversant in the central issue of the day — the economy," says Major Garrett in National Journal. If that sounds a bit like Romney, well, it is. He may not offer demographic or ideological "balance" to the ticket, but like Al Gore was to Bill Clinton in 1992, "Portman reinforces all that Romney offers or hopes to offer the country," and he helps make the election about President Obama and the economy, not Romney.

SEE MORE: Why no one admits to wanting Mitt Romney's VP slot: 5 theories

4. Portman won't overshadow Romney
The most common critique of Portman is that he's bland and boring — like a "white bread sandwich" with mayonnaise, as political prognosticator Larry Sabato puts it. But his "seeming inability to overshadow the vanilla Romney" actually gives him a leg up, says BuzzFeed's Miller. Portman is known to be a team player. The last thing Romney wants is to "suffer charisma comparisons to Portman," says National Journal's Garrett. "Don't kid yourself that this doesn't matter to Romney."

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