Ohio would rather have had Portman, but will settle for Ryan

Aug 27, 2012

The nearly 500 Ohioans who came to Tampa this week for the Republican National Convention had hoped they would be celebrating a  victory - having their favorite son, Sen. Rob Portman of Cincinnati - in the second spot on the GOP ticket.

But it was not to be.

And. despite their disappointment, the 66 delegates, 63 alternates and several hundred Ohio guests here are taking it well; and vowing they will let bygones by bygones when it comes to going back home to work for the ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman chosen over Portman.

"It's no secret that Bob Bennett was  supporter of Rob Portman for vice president,'' said Bennett, the Ohio GOP chairman who led the party for decades before returning earlier this year when the Ohio GOP ousted chairman Kevin DeWine.

"I was on Front Street for Rob,'' Bennett said. "Rob Portman is the best senator in the U.S. Senate. And the good news is we still have him."

If Portman had been chosen for the vice presidential slot, he and his wife Jane would not have been staying this week with the Ohio delegation in  the Mainsail Suites and Conference Center in Tampa, about 10 miles from where the convention itself will take place.

He would have been holed up in a downtown hotel near the Tampa Bay Times Forum, surrounded by immense security and more or less in seclusion until Wednesday night, when the vice presidential candidate is to speak.

But, instead, Monday morning, Portman and his wife were in the ballroom at the Mainsail, mixing with old friends from all over Ohio. Portman gave a short speech, most of which was a tribute to his friend, the late astronaut Neil Armstrong, who, years ago, made one of his rare public appearances at the dedication of a veterans memorial in Mason because Portman had asked him to.

He spoke not at all of his being passed over; and heaped praise on the Wisconsin congressman who was chosen.

"Paul is a great pick,'' Portman said. "He is a good friend of mine in Congress, some I have gotten to know well."

Brad Wenstrup of Columbia Tusculum, who is running for the Second Congressional District seat that Portman once held, said "there was some disappointment when Rob wasn't chosen."

"But we still have him in Ohio,'' Wenstrup said. "We have a deep bench in this party with people like Rob Portman."

The choice of the 42-year-old Ryan made sense, Wenstrup said, "because he can appeal to younger voters. And he excites a lot of people in the base."

People saw no resentment from Portman, Wenstrup said, "because that is the kind of guy he is. Right after the choice was made, you saw Rob standing side-by-side with Romney and Ryan. He will do everything he can to get them elected."

"Paul Ryan is Catholic; and so am I,'' Wenstrup said. "I think there are a lot of Republican Catholics who are glad to see somebody like him, who respects the beliefs of the church. We have a Mormon and a Catholic running together. We've got it all covered."

Former Ohio attorney general Betty Montgomery said that Portman "would have been a great addition to the ticket, tremendous, especially in Ohio."

Ryan's appeal, Montgomery said, "is that he brings enthusiasm to the ticket. He has energized the more conservative wing of the party, who might have supported somebody besides Romney for president."

"At first, when I heard that Ryan was the one, I thought we had just put up more targets for the other side to shoot at,'' Montgomery said. "But what it has done instead is bring to the forefront the debate over the budget and spending, which is a good thing.

"Although,'' Montgomery said, "it would have been fun having the vice president from our state."