Ohio Sen. Rob Portman visits New Hampshire to campaign for Scott Brown.

Oct 15, 2014 2:22 PM

Paul Steinhauser: Ohio Sen. Portman's NH visit sparks 2016 talk

NH1 Political Director - NH1.com

HAMPSTEAD - He's not on the ballot next month, but Sen. Rob Portman is spending a lot of time lately on the campaign trail.

The Republican senator from Ohio and possible 2016 White House contender was in southern New Hampshire Wednesday, lending a helping hand to Granite State GOP Senate nominee Scott Brown.

Portman is crisscrossing the midterm election campaign trail this autumn in his role as a vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. That's the group which assists GOP senate candidates and incumbents running for re-election. In an interview with NH1, he said the strong chance that the Republicans will win back control of the Senate is "a really exciting prospect."

"Getting a Republican majority to me is not about politics, it's not about winning races, it's about actually getting stuff done for the American people. People are sick and tired about the dysfunction in Washington and I don't blame them. I am too. I am frustrated every day," Portman added.

Asked what would be his top priorities if the GOP gains control of the chamber, Portman started with the much debated Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring Canadian oil south to the U.S.

"I think we should do Keystone XL pipeline, which enables us to create jobs in America, 42,000 new jobs. The biggest infrastructure in America if we get started. Also it makes us more energy independent."

Portman also listed expanding exports and reducing government regulations as part of his to do list. And he said reforming the tax code is also a top priority.

"We've got the highest tax rate of any business tax of any of the developed countries. Our international system is totally non-competitive to the point that companies are not just going overseas, they're getting sold to foreign companies. Try to buy an American beer these days. Sam Adams is the largest American beer company. One-point-four percent market share. I love Sam Adams, I love their beer, but we gotta get more companies to stay here, to create jobs here," Portman added.

This is Portman's second trip to New Hampshire in the past three months. And it comes just a week after he stumped in Iowa with Hawkeye State GOP senate nominee Joni Ernst. Visits to the two states that kick off the presidential caucus and primary calendar sparks more speculation that Portman's seriously thinking about making a bid for the Republican nomination in 2016.

"I am going to take a look at it, but I'm sure a lot of other people will too. It's going to be competitive. But I'm worried about the county, that we're going to win an election in 2016 but win it with people that have the ability to get things done. You know, we blew it with electing President Obama. He didn't have the experience, he didn't have the record, and he didn't have the interest in working across the aisle, rolling up his sleeves, getting things done, finding common ground," Portman told NH1.

If Portman does run in 2016, experience won't be an issue for him. He spent 12 years in the House of Representatives before serving as U.S. trade representative and then budget director under President George W. Bush. And as finance chairman for the NRSC, Portman has strong connections and relationships with many of his party's top donors. But the man who came very close to being Mitt Romney's running mate in 2012 suffers when it comes to national name recognition.

One thing about him that's not well known outside Ohio is that he co-owns a restaurant with his siblings.

"I own a restaurant back in Ohio, with my brother and my sister. It's been in our family for 80 some years but about five years ago by brother and I bought it back from a guy who had been running it for a couple of years. We bought back the lease and are now running it," Portman explained.

He says being a small business owner really grounds him.

"I'm very much in touch with what's going on in terms of the cost of beef, the cost of pork, of flour, what's going on with Obamacare and how it affects a restaurant like ours. We are an inn and a restaurant so we also have to deal with some other issues, regulations. That has helped keep me grounded. Every couple of weeks I get the financials. I talk to the manager on a regular basis. I have my finger on the pulse because of being involved in that small business and most people probably don't realize that," Portman added.

Asked if he's going to return to New Hampshire after the midterm elections, when the next race for the White House unofficially gets under way, Portman said "well I'm coming to see my daughter, of course."

His daughter's a student at Dartmouth.

But Portman quickly added "I've also got a lot of other friends in New Hampshire who I always enjoy seeing."


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