Sen. Rob Portman is a Bush man, all right. But just not the Bush you may be thinking of.
In both his political education and political identity, Portman is much more closely aligned with the 41st president than with the 43rd. The Ohio senator and GOP vice-presidential finalist got his start in national politics on George H.W. Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign and partly owes his first congressional victory to former first lady Barbara Bush, who recorded a radio ad name-dropping Cincinnati’s Skyline Chili and Portman in the same sentence. And overall, his views and political style are more reminiscent of the first President Bush: center-right, bipartisan, results-oriented and gentlemanly, if not terribly charismatic.
As the clock ticks toward a decision by Mitt Romney on his running mate and speculation about Portman intensifies, he’s coming under increasing scrutiny for his work as George W. Bush’s trade representative and director of Office of Management and Budget. Conservatives fret what that might mean for his approach to spending, which spiked under the most recent GOP administration, and victory-hungry Republicans worry about putting somebody on the ticket who may remind swing voters of the party’s recent unpleasantness.