Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) will play the part of President Obama in Romney's debate preparation sessions, a Romney campaign official has confirmed.
For several reasons, Portman makes a lot of sense as Romney's practice partner. CNN first reported the story.
For one thing, Portman, a first-term senator from Ohio who has emerged as a key surrogate for the Romney campaign, is an experienced debate sparring partner. He played Obama for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during the 2008 campaign. He has also served as a practice partners in the past to then-President George W. Bush and then-Vice Dick Cheney.
Portman is also close ally of Romney's and was a finalist to be his vice presidential running mate. He endorsed Romney's presidential candidacy in January and frequently appeared with the former Massachusetts governor in the lead-up to Ohio's Super Tuesday primary. Portman is viewed as a crucial part of the effort that propelled Romney to a close victory there.
Aside from his personal relationship with Romney and past debate practice experience, there is another reason why Portman has the potential to be an effective debate partner. He served as budget director under Bush, so he has a good grasp of economic issues which are likely to surface at the fall debates.
Romney and Obama will meet three times this fall. The first debate will be Oct. 3 in Denver. The two subsequent debates will take place in Florida and New York later that month.
Obama will try to sharpen his one-on-one skills against Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).