The Washington Post

Sen. Rob Portman discusses oil, Ohio, and Romney’s likability at the RNC

Polls have shown that President Obama is more likeable than Mitt Romney. So today at the Republican National Convention in Tampa we asked Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who had been on the short list to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, what impact that would have. “It’s a factor,” Portman said. But he added that voters are more interested in a candidate’s “acceptability” rather than “likeability” because “celebrity status, or ‘wow, he’s cool’ doesn’t fix the economy.”

“I think it’s a much easier factor to address than the fundamentals of the race -- jobs and the economy, and the record deficits and debts.”

I am from Cleveland, so I felt compelled to ask Portman to explain the path to victory in Ohio, a crucial swing state. Obama won it four years ago and his campaign has been carpet-bombing the Buckeye state’s airwaves with ads.

By Portman’s calculation, Romney can win in a close race by “over-performing” in the rural areas that have traditionally gone Republican and picking up some of the suburban swing voters. In the Cleveland area, he thought Romney could take “ a lot of nationalities voters, a lot of folks who are culturally conservative, nominally Democrat, a lot of Reagan Democrats. “

Since natural gas reserves have been found in Ohio, Portman predicted that Romney would win votes of those who like his pro-oil, pro-drilling energy message. “This is oil and gas country now,” he said.

In the closing heated weeks of the campaign, Portman said we will be hearing a lot of this line: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” And, that, he said, will be good news for his candidate.

Mary Jordan is a national correspondent for the Washington Post covering the 2016 presidential campaign. She served as the co-bureau chief of the Post’s London, Mexico and Tokyo bureaus, and was the head of content of Washington Post Live, which organizes forums and debates.


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