Sen. Rob Portman will not run for president in 2016, he said Tuesday, putting an end to speculation that the Republican from the key presidential battleground state of Ohio would make a bid for the White House.
“While I appreciate the encouragement I have received from many to run for president, my focus will remain on Ohio and running for re-election to the Senate in 2016,” Portman said in a written statement. “With the new Republican majority, I see a real opportunity over the next two years to [end] the gridlock in Washington and actually get things done.”
He added: “I don’t think I can run for president and be an effective senator at the same time.”
Portman has been stoking speculation about a potential presidential bid for months. The decision will likely put him near the top of any list of possible vice presidential contenders; he was on Mitt Romney’s short list for the job in 2012, and he hails from the state that is at the center of any presidential fight.
Portman’s decision also impacts how any debate over gay marriage might play out in a Republican presidential primary. Portman announced his support for same sex unions in 2013, revealing that he came to the decision because his son, Will, is gay. Portman’s decision to stay out of the race leaves the potential GOP field without an apparent gay marriage advocate.
In the statement, Portman did not endorse any potential Republican presidential hopeful. But he does have close ties to the Bush family, having served in former President George W. Bush’s administration. Jeb Bush, George’s brother, is openly considering a run. And the governor of Ohio, Republican John Kasich, is a potential contender as well after cruising to re-election last month.
Portman’s decision is also likely welcome news for incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Ohio is a swing state with one Republican and one Democratic senator, and fighting for an open seat there in a presidential year would make it much less likely to stay in GOP hands. Portman’s decision makes a tough 2016 Senate map slightly less daunting for the GOP.