COLUMBUS, Ohio – Sen. Rob Portman, R- Ohio, has been saying for months his plan for the coming year is to stay in the United States Senate.
Friday night, it became clear that likely will be the case. That’s when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called Portman to inform him he had not been selected to join the Republican presidential ticket, a Republican familiar with the situation told ABC News.
Portman told ABC News he would remain in Columbus, Ohio, Friday night and will continue with his plans to complete a 100-mile bike ride to raise money and awareness for curing cancer Saturday morning. So while Romney rolls out his running mate – expected to be Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. – in Norfolk, Va., Portman will be rolling down a road somewhere between Columbus and Gambier, Ohio, with his son, Will, 20.
Portman has been rumored at the top of vice presidential short lists since political insiders turned their attention to who the running mate would be.
Portman backed Romney early, endorsing the former governor in late January in South Carolina at a time when no clear front runner had emerged, and has been a regular surrogate on the campaign trail ever since. He has indicated a number of times in recent weeks he would continue to “work hard for Romney” whether he was picked to be the VP candidate or not.
After his January endorsement, Portman next appeared with Romney in Ohio in early March, ahead of the Buckeye State’s primary. The Romney-Portman duo was not seen again until Romney’s swing-state bus tour in mid-June.
Portman has also campaigned and fundraised solo for Romney as recently as Wednesday, when he rode the Romney bus around Colorado, bracketing President Obama’s appearance there. He has also held events for Romney in Ohio, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, New York and North Carolina. Jane Portman, his wife of 26 years, with whom he has three children, joined him in May when he opened Romney’s Ohio Victory Headquarters.
Although Portman has been a high-profile surrogate for Romney in recent months, he’s also been consistent in his denials he was being considered as VP. Just days before he endorsed Romney, Portman told CNBC of the vice presidency, “I’m not interested. I’m not seeking it. It’s not going to happen.”
Portman’s denial that he was interested in the No. 2 spot on the GOP ticket became a mantra throughout the late spring and early summer. When asked about it, he was often heard reciting the familiar line, “I’m happy where I am in the Senate.”
Perhaps the closest Portman came to admitting he was being vetted by the Romney campaign came in mid-July when he told ABC News that he had six meetings over a six-hour time span with some of Romney’s chief campaign advisors and did not deny meeting with Beth Myers, the woman charged with vetting a potential running mate.
Romney made known his running mate had to be someone with whom he feels comfortable and who would be qualified to take over as president. In addition to being consistently pro-Second-Amendment and pro-life, Portman arguably has one of the longest, most sterling resumes in Washington. A common criticism of Portman has been that he lacks “pizzazz.”
Portman graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in anthropology, going on to get his law degree from the University of Michigan. Portman’s first job post-law school was as a trade lawyer at Patton-Boggs in Washington, D.C.
He began his political career in President George H. W. Bush’s White House in the office of the counsel and was later promoted to director of legislative affairs for the White House, becoming the president’s go-to guy for congressional matters.
After resigning his post at the White House, Portman returned to private sector life in Ohio briefly before jumping back into public life to run for Congress. Portman went on to win seven consecutive races with 70 percent of the vote before being tapped by George W. Bush in 2005 to be U.S. trade representative, a post that would take him around the world negotiating agreements.
In 2006, Bush named Portman director of the Office of Budget and Management, a high-profile position he would hold for just one year before returning to private-sector life in Ohio once more to, in his words, spend more time with his wife and children.
Portman remained tucked away in private life until then-Ohio Sen. George Voinovich announced he would not seek re-election in January 2010. Two weeks later, Portman announced his intent to run for the seat, going on to beat Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a landslide.
Portman serves on four committees in the United States Senate: Budget, Armed Services, Energy and Natural Resources, and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Since being in the Senate, Portman has been an outspoken advocate for fiscal responsibility as well as critic of President Obama and his administration. Portman was tapped by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to serve as one of 12 members of Congress on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, colloquially referred to as the supercommittee.
While the committee ultimately failed, Portman has continued to beat the fiscal-responsibility drum while in the Senate, something he likely will continue on the campaign trail as a surrogate, not a vice presidential nominee, through November.