Sen. Rob Portman has been cited as a leading choice for Mitt Romney’s running mate, but in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV he downplays vice presidential talk and says he is entirely focused on getting Romney elected president.
The Ohio Republican served in the U.S. House from 1993 to 2005. He also served in the George W. Bush administration as U.S. Trade Representative and later as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Portman was elected to the Senate in 2010.
Addressing the running-mate talk and reports that he confirmed he had meetings recently with Mitt Romney’s campaign staff, Portman tells Newsmax: “I actually did not confirm that I had spoken with those folks, but I did say that I was in Boston this week doing some fundraising and we had six different events and meetings on the fundraising front, and all I said was that there were Romney staff present, which there were.
Watch our exclusive interview. Story continues below.
“But look, I hope he wins. I think this country needs the leadership desperately. I’m concerned because I see us drifting toward an economy where we’re not going to have the opportunity we’ve become accustomed to, generation-to-generation in this country. I’m concerned that with this record debt and deficit, if we don’t make a change we’re quickly going to become like the southern European countries.
"We followed Greece into democracy; we don’t want to follow them into bankruptcy.
“That’s where we’re headed, so I’m going to do everything I can to help elect Mitt Romney, both in the state of Ohio, where I’m carrying his campaign, and whatever I can do nationally.”
In fact, the website Intrade has made Portman the clear favorite to be Romney’s running mate.
But Portman says simply: “I’m not focused on that. I’m focused on helping Mitt Romney all I can and representing my state. I just won election in 2010, and we’re working hard every day to be sure that the people of Ohio have good representation, including good public policy that helps move Ohio forward.
“So that’s my focus. I’m not focused on what’s going on in terms of Intrade or anything else like that. I’m trying to be sure that we do help Mitt Romney all we can because I think it’s important for the country and for my state.”
Portman also dismissed published reports that he was vetted as a potential running mate for John McCain in 2008.
“No, I wasn’t vetted in 2008. And I was very supportive of John McCain. I was involved in that campaign and actually played the role of Barack Obama in the debate preparations with Sen. McCain.
“Again, I’m going to be very involved this time. This time I’m actually carrying the effort in Ohio. We’re very hopeful we can win Ohio, and if you win Ohio, you have a good chance of winning the election nationally.
"The converse is also true. If you don’t win Ohio, it’s tough to win. I’m told that it’s the No. 1 state for President Obama’s campaign right now in terms of spending, and it may (be) for Gov. Romney as well.”
Portman is pushing in the Senate for an investigation into spending by the Department of Health and Human Services, some $183 million, for advertising and public relations in support of Obamacare.
“We’re concerned that taxpayer dollars are not being used properly,” he explains. “We just want to know how the dollars were being spent, why, what the message is.
“We have asked all departments in the federal government to provide to us their information about how they’re spending dollars that are considered public relations dollars, and every department has responded except one, and that is the Department of Health and Human Services, which is the one that has probably spent the most.
“We’re very eager to get their information to be able to analyze it and do the proper oversight.”
Asked if a Republican plan to reduce the deficit and reform the tax code might force the president’s hand on reform, Portman responds: “We’re going to need new leadership, unfortunately, to do this, but there’s an opportunity for us to come together as Democrats and Republicans and address these big issues.
“What Mitt Romney is talking about is the fact that we do need to address entitlements, which have to be reformed so they can be saved. Otherwise they’re unsustainable. He’s talked about the need for us to reform our tax code to create more revenue through growth in the economy. He’s also talked about getting healthcare costs down and dealing with the over-regulation of this administration, expanding our exports, things that will get the economy moving.
“That combination, restraining spending and growing the economy, is what we need right now. I think that’s acknowledged. We just need some leadership here in Washington to be able to do that.”
But Portman believes Congress should not wait until after the November elections to begin dealing with the problems facing the nation.
“I think it’s too important, particularly to deal with some of the things that are otherwise going to happen at year-end, which would really be tough on the economy.
“If the president doesn’t show some leadership, if Congress doesn’t work with the president to resolve some of these year-end issues, including a $5 trillion tax increase over 10 years, then we’ll have a deepening of our weak economic recovery. In fact, we’ll send the country into a recession. So these are issues that do need to be dealt with. Hopefully they can be dealt with before the election.
“After the election there’s a period of time before the new president takes office. It could be dealt with there too. But I’m going to continue to push to address these issues because, frankly, if we don’t, we’re likely to see even less economic growth and even more pain and misery in places like Ohio.
“We need Washington to help, not hurt, and right now so much of what Washington is doing — with the over-regulation, overtaxing, what the president would like to do to increase regulations even more on healthcare and financial services and other things — is making it harder, not easier to create jobs.”
Mitt Romney spoke to the NAACP on Wednesday, showing that he is willing to reach out to blacks and other minorities. Portman was asked how Republicans can do more to attract minority voters.
“I’m delighted that he spoke to the NAACP and I look forward to having him do even more of that, more outreach. There are lots of folks in the African-American community, in the Hispanic community, who are very supportive of small businesses and entrepreneurship and hard work, and those are all things that a President Romney would be promoting.
“I’m also really pleased to see that he continues to do outreach with regard to women’s issues. The economy and jobs is the top issue among women in America. It’s the top issue among African-American voters. It’s the top issue among Hispanic voters. So I think there’s a great opportunity to reach out, let more folks know what the Republican Party is standing for this year, what Gov. Romney would like to do as president.
“Ultimately we’re looking at a situation right now with 8.2 percent unemployment nationally, over 11 percent unemployment among African-Americans, and we’ve got to make some changes in order to turn things around.
“We gave President Obama the ball in 2008 because he said that he was going to bring people together and solve problems and move the ball down the field. It hasn’t happened. He fumbled the ball, in my view. Now we need to give the ball to somebody else who’s got a better plan and also has the record and the experience to get the job done.”
See also: Portman: Obama's Tax-Cut Gambit Is a Campaign Ploy
© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.