Senator Rob Portman, R-OH, learned from Gov. Mitt Romney via telephone Friday evening that he was not picked to be the GOP running mate.
This morning, Portman managed to duck ABC News’ camera as he left his hotel in downtown Columbus to join his biking team for the annual Pelotonia 100- Mile Ride to cure cancer - a charity event he does every year. In the middle of a sea of spandex and racing shirts, ABC News managed spot Portman and, for the first time, hear how the call from Romney went and how he was feeling. Portman, who is generally upbeat and cheery, was visibly somber.
Portman said Governor Romney called him last night around 7:15 p.m. ET – the exact time Portman was delivering remarks at the opening ceremony of the Pelotonia bike ride. Portman missed the call but was able to connect with Romney shortly after wrapping up his remarks.
“He couldn’t have been more gracious,” Portman said of their interaction. “And I told him I’m really excited about the prospect of working with him as president and implementing the changes that are definitely needed in this county on economic and fiscal issues.”
Portman said that despite being passed over, he will continue spearhead to Romney’s Ohio presidential effort.
“It was a great phone conversation overall and I really appreciate him giving me the heads up,” Portman said.
Portman has told reporters in recent days he elected to not downloaded “Romney’s VP” app. He said he second-guessed that decision once the call came from Romney.
“I thought, well, maybe I should get the app. Take angry birds off my phone.”
ABC News asked Portman if he was disappointed. After a long pause, Portman answered:
“Well, I’ll just say what I’ve been saying. That I’m happy where I am. I do feel fortunate to be where I am. I really do. And I’ve said from the outset I think I can help him where I am.”
A fellow biker approached Portman told him, “I hope you’re the VP. I really do.”
“Thank you very much,” Portman said.
After another lengthy pause, Portman emphasized again he thinks he can make an impact through his work in the U.S. Senate, that he loved his family and Ohio and that he really is happy where he is.
“I was honored to be a part of the mix. There. That’s the first time I’ve said that,” he said confirming for the first time that he had in fact been vetted by the Romney campaign.
When asked if he was surprised by Romney picking Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, Portman said he “really didn’t know.”
Portman departed the Commons Square in Columbus shortly after 7 a.m. ET with his 8 man team, including his older brother, Wym, and son, Will. They are all wearing “Team Portman” jerseys in honor of both Portman and his wife Jane’s mothers, who died prematurely of cancer. Watching them, however, it was clear they also wear the Portman jersey in support of their brother, son, and friend.
UPDATE: Senator Portman issued the following statement shortly before Romney’s official announcement that Ryan would be his #2 in Norfolk, Va:
“Mitt Romney has made a great choice in Paul Ryan. He is an accomplished public servant and a leading voice on the most pressing issues facing our country. Paul is one of my best friends in Congress and someone I have worked closely with as a former colleague on the House Ways & Means Committee.
“Jane and I wish Paul and Janna and their kids the very best. As the Chairman of the Romney campaign in Ohio, I look forward to working with Paul to ensure that the Romney-Ryan ticket carries Ohio and is victorious in November. Most importantly, as a member of the Senate, I look forward to working closely with a Romney-Ryan Administration to restore fiscal sanity and enact pro-growth policies to create jobs.”