Ohio Senator Rob Portman has been all over the news recently as speculation builds that he may be added to Mitt Romney’s ticket as the Republican vice presidential nominee.
Portman, a former four-term congressman and budget director for George W. Bush, was the overwhelming choice of Republican National Committee members in an informal survey which was recently conducted by BuzzFeed.
“He’s not going to be Palin — he’s not going to be fighting to get in front of cameras, [Portman] knows his place,” one Midwestern committeeman told BuzzFeed.
“He was born to be the guy standing next to the guy,” said another.
Republican insiders may love the idea of nominating the uncontroversial, wonkish Portman, but they are just about the only ones who are thrilled by the idea. According to several polls, most voters don’t seem to have any idea who Portman is.
A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that only 8 percent of voters think that Portman would be a good choice as Romney’s running mate. 9 percent think that he would be a bad choice, and a whopping 79 percent have no opinion.
Even in Portman’s home state of Ohio, the senator is not well known. According to a Public Policy Polling survey from February, 42 percent of Ohio voters have no opinion of Portman — a higher number than the polling group saw for any other sitting Senator in his home state. Indeed, according to a Fox News poll from April 19th, President Obama leads a hypothetical Romney/Portman ticket by 6 points in the Buckeye State — the exact same margin by which he leads without Portman.
“We have run focus groups on him in the state where people said – Who?” one Obama campaign adviser told CBS News.
In other words, Portman does nothing to improve Romney’s chances of winning Ohio — a state that, by most accounts, Romney must win to have any chance of defeating the president.
Furthermore, there are signs that voters won’t love Portman once they get to know him. As The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza points out, being the insider’s choice for the nomination might be a liability at a time when voters are generally disgusted by Washington. Additionally, given that a plurality of voters still blame President Bush for the country’s economic woes, nominating the Bush Administration’s former budget director may not be the best way to combat the Obama campaign’s message of moving forward.
Overall, it appears that — like Florida Senator Marco Rubio — Rob Portman may be a better running mate in theory than he would be in practice.