Back in March, the Dispatch quoted a stunningly neutral remark by then-congressman Rob Portman as he made the rounds of the Ohio State Fair in 2010.
“If voters hire me,” the Cincinnati Republican said, drawing from the hackneyed staple of political comments, “I assume they’re hiring me to get results, not just to play partisan politics.”
And the non-partisan results, now that he’s a senator? Check the government shutdown. It’s been in all of the papers since the GOP sideshow, with Portman aboard, moved to center stage with its Hail Mary pass to defund Obamacare.
Portman often is not one to take seriously when he speaks. He regularly gets a soft landing in the media as a “moderate,” which I can only assume means that he’s not as noisily confrontational as his wild-eyed buddies on Capitol Hill. (“Polite and optimistic, convinced that reason and comity can prevail in the grubby world of politics”, is how Dispatch political columnist Joe Hallett describes him.)
For these supposed attributes, he gets high marks from Ohio’s corporate media, which breathes in utter relief that he’s not, say, Dennis Kucinich. Or Josh Mandel. The Dispatch even holds out hope that he will find his way to the top of the national ticket, except on those days when it is holding out hope that Gov. Kasich will find his way to the top of the ticket.
Recent history, however, tells us that there must be a reason why Mitt Romney didn’t pick Portman as his running mate even though sartorially they were good ol’ boy twins in Levis and casual shirts in most Ohio campaign photo ops.
But thrust more visibly into the grubby world, Portman is finding it harder to define his alleged centrism as he opts to satisfy the Tea Partyers who have set the bar quite high for their love and affection. Aside from his support of gay marriage, which was really a familly thing, there is nothing in the current political combat to suggest that he isn’t a hard- right conservative on Mondays and a fuzzy garden variety conservative on Tuesdays. On virtually all of the blood-letting right-wing issues Portman falls in line with Tea Partyers. At least it appears so because we’re never sure about it.
Even as close to the scene as he is supposed to be, there was Portman predicting in late September that there would be no government shutdown. At the same time, he was seeking style points from the right by denouncing the Affordable Care Act as bad economic and health-care policy.
Hmmm…so he opposed a shutdown and then cast a vote that made it possible. He even went so far afield to insist that Obamacare was a threat to the good health of companies and wrongly predicted that it was the culprit that led to layoffs at Cleveland Clinic. He correctly said that gay couples deserve a chance to get married. But has yet to demonstrate that people without health insurance deserve the coverage for their ills.
I’ve noted that Ohio’s Democratic Sen.Sherrod Brown has been elected twice running against those issues that Portman supports. A telling contrast in Who’s Who in Ohio politics.