This is an excerpt from Executive Insight Briefing, produced every Thursday by the National Journal’s Daily Briefings Team.
"I think I’m better suited to stay where I am in the Senate," Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said on Monday. "The folks in Ohio expect me to stick around and do my job."
Increasingly, fewer and fewer Republican prognosticators agree with him. Portman is currently enjoying a mini-surge to the top of the field of potential running mates for Mitt Romney.
His bona fides: He has serious policy credentials, having served as U.S. trade representative and director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush. His profile is serious, but not so high-wattage as to outshine the principal’s -- as, say Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s might.
His drawbacks: Within that public profile lurks the “boring white guy” persona already hung on Romney. And affiliation with the 43rd president is not widely regarded as a net plus in the general election.
Portman is well-liked on Capitol Hill, regarded as a legitimate conservative who is also willing to cooperate with the party elders, not unlike Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.
While handicappers chatter endlessly about the lessons learned from Sen. John McCain’s 2008 selection process that resulted in Sarah Palin, perhaps the more useful text comes from the last two Democrats to win the White House. Then-Sen. Barack Obama clearly wanted to shore up the ticket’s experience, and went with graybeard Sen. Joe Biden, offsetting his own shortcomings. Then-Gov. Bill Clinton, in 1992, sought a different tack, and looked to reinforce his ticket’s strengths, so turned to another young, Southern, New Democrat-style choice in then-Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee.
Both techniques worked. The tapping of Portman would represent Romney’s belief in the latter.
Read the complete May 17, 2012, edition of Executive Insight Briefing.