Sen. Rob Portman, (R-OH), on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 6, 2013.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

GOP Sen. Portman will ‘look at’ a potential 2016 presidential run

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said Thursday that he will consider a run for president after the 2014 midterm elections.

“I’m going to take a look at it,” the Republican told reporters when asked if he wants to seek the 2016 GOP nomination. Earlier this summer, he told The Washington Post he was thinking about a possible run.

Portman’s comments Thursday came at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, where he criticized President Obama for leaving a “leadership vacuum” that’s led to chaos in the world.

“I hope that last night’s speech begins the process of getting America back on track in terms of the very real terrorist threat … that the president hopes will go away,” Portman said of Obama’s remarks on combating ISIS. “Hope is not a strategy.”

The measured, soft-spoken and policy-focused Portman, 58, stands in sharp contrast with other, noisier members of his party who also hope to use the Senate as a springboard to the White House, including Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and even Marco Rubio.

A budget and trade expert who served in George W. Bush’s administration and was on the short list to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick in 2012, Portman has a leadership role in the Senate and has typically been viewed more as traditional deal-making legislator than some of his conservative colleagues.

“We ought to rally behind the president and we ought to provide the means to execute what he talked about last night,” Portman said Thursday morning, after the president’s Wednesday night speech to the nation.

Portman’s background and approach have endeared him to many in the establishment – and he could occupy a unique space in the Republican Party as a supporter of gay marriage. (Portman’s son Will is gay.) But most of all: He’s from Ohio, the state that’s all but decided recent presidential elections.

For now, Portman serves as vice chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. Republicans need six seats to take control of the Senate in the midterm elections; Portman said that he thinks judging that outcome is currently “too close to call.”

Portman said he views West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota, where Democratic incumbents are retiring, as moving firmly into Republican hands. He dismissed Democratic chances of picking up Republican-held seats in Kansas, Kentucky and Georgia, where the races are considered more competitive.

“Pat Roberts is doing fine,” Portman said of the suddenly embattled Kansas Republican. “I think Mitch [McConnell of Kentucky] is going to be fine. And I think in Georgia we’re doing well.” The races that will determine control, he said, are incumbent Democratic seats and open contests in places like Iowa and Michigan. 

If Republicans do succeed this year, Portman suggested, it’s because they recruited candidates who aren’t like Todd Akin, the Missouri Republican Senate candidate who torpedoed his chances in 2012 when he said that women’s bodies would reject pregnancy in the event of a “legitimate rape.”

“I think the lack of any big mistakes on the campaign trail is partly due to the fact that people have been focused on ensuring we stay on the issues that people care about,” Portman said.

Ohio and Rob Portman

GOP Sen. Portman will 'look at' a potential 2016 presidential run