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0000017a-3b40-d913-abfe-bf44a4f90000Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 16 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time.

Portman Makes It Crystal Clear – He's Backing Trump

Howard Wilkinson

CLEVELAND – Ohio's junior senator, Rob Portman, has been the object of barbs from his re-election opponent, former Gov. Ted Strickland, and Ohio Democrats for wanting to have it both ways when it comes to Donald Trump.

Portman has endorsed the GOP nominee – although he supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the primaries – but Democrats say he doesn't want to get too close to him so as not to alienate independent voters who aren't Trump fans.

But Thursday morning, Portman came to the Ohio delegation breakfast at the Doubletree Hotel on the shores of Lake Erie and made what was his strongest public statement yet on Trump's candidacy.

He praised vice presidential nominee Mike Pence of Indiana, whom he served with in the U.S. House, saying Pence's acceptance speech Wednesday night "was terrific."

The Trump-Pence ticket is going to be the right ticket to win in November.

Then came the words many had not heard the 60-year-old Terrace Park Republican say.

"The Trump-Pence ticket is going to be the right ticket to win in November,'' Portman said to the Ohioans to less-than tumultuous applause.

All of the Ohio delegates voted for Kasich, who won the Ohio primary, and many have yet to come to terms with the idea of Trump as their presidential candidate. Most of them seem far more interested in helping Portman win re-election to the Senate than helping Trump win Ohio.

Portman told them he needs each one of them to help him win re-election, but he also made clear his support for Trump.

"The media is saying people in the party are not unified,'' Portman said. "But I know from talking to you that we are more united than ever."

There is, Portman said, "no other choice. Hillary Clinton? Another four years of Barack Obama?"

Portman has made two visits so far to Quicken Loans Arena, on Monday and Wednesday nights, and is likely to go Thursday night.

He has also been holding his own events all over Cleveland, far from the secure zone around the convention venue.

Twice this week, he's helped Habitat for Humanity build new houses for low-income people.

Earlier this week, he went kayaking on the Cuyahoga River with disabled veterans who have benefited from a program that refits kayaks for use by veterans who have lost limbs.

He said he raced with Ryan Major, a veteran of Iraq who lost both legs in battle, "and he cleaned my clock. The man is really strong."

He held a reception for the Ohio delegation and a special event for over 500 campaign volunteers from around the state.

Portman is locked in a battle with Strickland that has major implications for the Democrats' efforts to win back control of the Senate from the Republicans, who now hold 54 seats.

"The contest for the Senate majority will be determined by this race in Ohio,'' Portman told the Ohio Republicans Thursday.

The Democrats, he claimed, are putting one-quarter of the money they are spending on winning a Senate majority into Ohio.

"And it's all being spent on attack ads on me,'' Portman said.

But, the fact is, Portman and his GOP allies are expected to far outspend Strickland and the Democrats in this race.

A Quinnipiac University Poll released July 14 had Portman with a seven percentage point lead over Strickland, who had an early lead in the polls. The poll of 955 Ohio voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.