So continuing the spate of vice presidential speculation, Bob Novak reports that the frontrunner for John McCain's vice presidential slot may be former Ohio Congressman, U.S. Trade Representative, and Budget Director Rob Portman:
McCain won't pick a running mate any time soon. But the front-runner in the VP derby may be Rob Portman -- former Ohio congressman, former U.S. trade representative and former OMB director. He appears to have fewer negatives than any other possibility.Regular readers will recall that I predicted Portman would be strongly considered more than a month ago. As I noted at that time, Portman is a rising star both in Ohio, and for the Republican party nationwide. While he doesn't have as high a profile as some of the other contenders -- largely because he hasn't served as either a governor or Senator -- there are plenty of reasons that Novak tabs him as the favorite.
Portman brings strong economic policy credentials based on his service on the Budget Ways and Means Committees while in Congress, and as Budget Director and Trade Representative. The latter position also gives him some foreign policy credentials -- perhaps more than most of the other names on McCain's short list. Like Chris Cox, he's a quick study, and strong on policy specifics -- including health care, which is likely to be a major issue in the campaign.
Portman is also a Reagan conservative -- one who'll satisfy all parts of the Republican coalition. And his biggest asset is that he's the strongest Republican in a critical swing state -- Ohio. The candidate who won Ohio has won the presidency in the last 11 elections. Ohio currently looks bluer than any time in recent memory however, as Democrats swept the state in 2006.
Can Portman bring Ohio to the GOP column? That's hard to say -- but he probably has a better chance than Cox would of bringing California. Further, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is a strong contender for the Democratic vice presidential nomination, which would complicate the matter.
In contrast to Cox -- the other former Republican House member turned administration official mentioned for the VP slot -- Portman has a pretty strong reputation as a team player. While he too, has been a leader on conservative reforms, his reputation has been of someone willing to set aside his priorities to put the team agenda first. For that reason and for others, he'd probably make a better fit on a McCain ticket than would Cox.
The wrinkle is that Portman continues to maintain that he doesn't want the job. Rather, he seems to be focused on seeking the governorship in 2010, which would give him an excellent perch to seek the presidency himself -- either in 2012 or 2016.