TAMPA—Ohio Sen. Rob Portman will play the role of President Barack Obama during practice debates with Mitt Romney, multiple sources told Yahoo News.
Portman is the Republican Party's go-to man for high-profile debate preparation. Since 1996, national political campaigns have tapped him to play the role of Democrats and even some Republicans. In mock debates, Portman has assumed the identity of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. In 2008, he played Barack Obama in a practice debate against John McCain.
Campaign staffers who have seen Portman in action say he approaches the exercise like a method actor, imitating the voice, mannerisms and cadence of the politician he's playing.
"He was not just [playing] the positions of Barack Obama—he became Barack Obama," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the chief economic policy director for McCain's presidential campaign in 2008, to Yahoo News earlier this summer. "Physical mannerisms, parsing of his voice, everything. He's obviously the white guy from Cincinnati, but Obama has a particular set of vocal rhythms. Rob got all of that."
In addition to his work as debate guru for the Romney campaign, Portman will continue his work as Romney's Ohio state chairman.