Senator Rob Portman of Ohio is a top vice-presidential contender and it’s easy to see why. He is close with Mitt Romney, he is a prolific fundraiser, and he has advised every Republican presidential nominee since Reagan. But inside the Beltway, where veep speculation is rampant, talk of Portman’s short-list status inevitably includes a caveat. His tenure in President George W. Bush’s administration, where he held two senior posts from 2005 to 2007, is widely considered a political liability.
Portman, naturally, dismisses the conventional wisdom. In an interview, he acknowledges that Bush remains unpopular in certain circles, but he is “very proud” of his time with the 43rd president, especially his involvement with Bush’s efforts to balance the federal budget and broker free-trade agreements. “It was full of successes,” he says. “We made some real progress on fiscal discipline and on accountability for taxpayers.” Portman also played a key role in urging Bush to issue the first spending veto of his presidency.