Portman: Trump on ticket will help re-election bid, but no interest in VP slot
By David Skolnick
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said having billionaire businessman Donald Trump lead the Republican ticket as its presidential nominee will “be a positive in the end” for his re-election bid.
“I’ve got a lot of friends frankly who normally don’t vote and they came out and voted for [Trump], and they don’t consider themselves Republicans normally,” Portman, a Republican from the Cincinnati area, said Thursday. “But they strongly support [Trump]. He’ll bring new people to the party, no question about it.”
Portman, seeking re-election this year with ex-Gov. Ted Strickland as his Democratic challenger, also said he has “no interest” in being Trump’s vice-presidential running mate.
Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee and the only candidate left in the party’s primary race after Ohio Gov. John Kasich quit Wednesday. Portman had supported Kasich.
“I said all along I intend to support the Republican nominee,” Portman said. “The Republican voters have now spoken. The nominee appears to be Donald Trump. I’ll be supporting Donald Trump as the nominee as I said I would. But no [I won’t be his vice-presidential running mate]. I’m interested in Ohio. I’m not interested in being on the ticket with anybody.”
Portman made the comments in response to questions from reporters after a meeting of a regional military affairs commission meeting at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna.
“What I saw here in the Valley and around the state, particularly here in the Valley, was a lot of people went out to vote for Donald Trump who had never voted for a Republican before” in the March 15 primary, Portman said.
Trump lost Ohio to Kasich by about 10 percentage points. But Trump was strong in the Mahoning Valley, beating the governor by 19 percentage points in Trumbull County and by 15 percentage points in Mahoning County.
“We’ll see what Hillary Clinton [the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee] does,” Portman said. “She is a pretty weak candidate if you look at her numbers in Ohio. They are not impressive, so anything can happen. But I’m focused on my race. We’re really confident in our race because I’m running against Ted Strickland, who’s got a terrible record.”
Unlike Trump, Clinton won Ohio, beating U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont by 14 percentage points. She beat Sanders by 10 percentage points in Trumbull County and by 19 percentage points in Mahoning County.
Meanwhile, several prominent Republicans have been hesitant to embrace Trump, who’s made disparaging statements on the campaign trail about illegal immigrants, Muslims, women and the Republican Party leadership, among others.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he couldn’t currently support Trump. Meanwhile, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush as well as 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain said they won’t attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July with Trump as the party’s nominee.
The Strickland campaign has spent the past two days attempting to connect Portman to Trump.
After reading part of Portman’s statement, Liz Margolis, a Strickland campaign spokeswoman, said Thursday: “Donald Trump has been the presumptive nominee for less than 24 hours and he’s already turned Sen. Portman’s campaign into a nonstop nightmare. Which part of Trump’s offensive and divisive campaign does Portman think is positive – calling for women to be punished for their health-care choices, mocking individuals with disabilities, or disparaging American prisoners of war and our veterans?”
Polls show Portman and Strickland in a statistical dead heat, and it’s expected to be one of the most hotly contested Senate races in the country this year.
On Thursday, Portman sharply criticized Strickland’s “terrible record” in Congress and as governor.
Strickland “likes to blame” the state’s financial problems when he was governor “on the Great Recession, but the fact is Ohio, relative to other states, was in the ditch,” Portman said. “When you’re 48th in the country in job creation, that means you’re doing something wrong.”
Portman pointed to getting more than 82 percent of the vote in the March 15 primary as proof that he’s a strong candidate.