Spin Cycle

04.10.12

The Portman Bubble

The media find a veepstakes favorite

The Great Mentioner has settled on a running mate for Mitt Romney.

Geez, that was fast.

Rob Portman, start writing your convention speech.

Never heard of Portman? Doesn’t matter, you will, whether he winds up being chosen or not.

The Mentioner was the late, great Russell Baker’s term for the media’s magical floating of names to be considered for this or that political job. (“So-and-so is increasingly being mentioned”—yeah, by who?)

 Now that the veepstakes chatter is off to an early start, the product of a bored press corps with a predeliction for prediction, Portman’s name has somehow floated to the top. And the blather will only get louder now that Rick Santorum has dropped out.

Oh, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan and Chris Christie and Susana Martinez and Nikki Haley are still in the speculation sweepstakes; there are a lot of cable segments and column inches to fill with five months until the Tampa convention. But Portman has won the Invisible Primary.

Not bad for a guy who’s been an Ohio senator for just over a year.

The consensus: Portman is a serious guy, former congressman, former trade rep, former federal budget director, and happens to hail from a swing state without which no Republican has captured the White House. Ergo, he’s the man.

National Journal’s Major Garrett flatly declared that Portman will get the nod, in part because he and Romney have a “genuine rapport.” Garrett acknowledged the downside:

“Portman’s a bore, and their ticket would be boredom squared, or squares squared; he offers nothing to women voters or Latino voters; he carries the taint of Bush-Cheney policies; and he’s not conservative enough for the Tea Party. To one degree or another, these are all valid complaints. But Romney has the same perceived ‘flaws’ and he’s going to win the nomination.”

The Portman boomlet picked up momentum when Politico ran this headline: “Rob Portman tops veepstakes.” The evidence for this? “The name on the lips of most GOP strategists is Ohio senator and former George W. Bush administration official Rob Portman.”

 Newsweek’s own Paul Begala was nothing if not definitive:

“You heard it here first: Mitt Romney is going to select Rob Portman, the junior senator from Ohio, to be his running mate…I’m betting that Romney’s choice will reflect who he is: a bloodless technocrat who wants to double down on trickle down.”

  So the conventional wisdom is that Portman isn’t exciting anyone, but by the process of elimination—and fear of an inexperienced Palin-style pick--he’s the logical choice.

  I have no idea whether Portman will wind up on the ticket. Other potential veeps may surge into the lead through a combination of leaks and journalistic boredom. Maybe Portman has just peaked too soon!

 It all depends on the mood of the Great Mentioner.