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Portman Makes It Crystal Clear – He's Backing Trump

Sen. Rob Portman
Sen. Rob Portman
Sen. Rob Portman
Credit Howard Wilkinson / WVXU
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Sen. Rob Portman

CLEVELAND – Ohio's junior senator, Rob Portman, has been the object of barbs from his re-election opponent, former Gov. Ted Strickland, and Ohio Democrats for wanting to have it both ways when it comes to Donald Trump.

Portman has endorsed the GOP nominee – although he supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the primaries – but Democrats say he doesn't want to get too close to him so as not to alienate independent voters who aren't Trump fans.

But Thursday morning, Portman came to the Ohio delegation breakfast at the Doubletree Hotel on the shores of Lake Erie and made what was his strongest public statement yet on Trump's candidacy.

He praised vice presidential nominee Mike Pence of Indiana, whom he served with in the U.S. House, saying Pence's acceptance speech Wednesday night "was terrific."

Then came the words many had not heard the 60-year-old Terrace Park Republican say.

"The Trump-Pence ticket is going to be the right ticket to win in November,'' Portman said to the Ohioans to less-than tumultuous applause.

All of the Ohio delegates voted for Kasich, who won the Ohio primary, and many have yet to come to terms with the idea of Trump as their presidential candidate. Most of them seem far more interested in helping Portman win re-election to the Senate than helping Trump win Ohio.

Portman told them he needs each one of them to help him win re-election, but he also made clear his support for Trump.

"The media is saying people in the party are not unified,'' Portman said. "But I know from talking to you that we are more united than ever."

There is, Portman said, "no other choice. Hillary Clinton? Another four years of Barack Obama?"

Portman has made two visits so far to Quicken Loans Arena, on Monday and Wednesday nights, and is likely to go Thursday night.

He has also been holding his own events all over Cleveland, far from the secure zone around the convention venue.

Twice this week, he's helped Habitat for Humanity build new houses for low-income people.

Earlier this week, he went kayaking on the Cuyahoga River with disabled veterans who have benefited from a program that refits kayaks for use by veterans who have lost limbs.

He said he raced with Ryan Major, a veteran of Iraq who lost both legs in battle, "and he cleaned my clock. The man is really strong."

He held a reception for the Ohio delegation and a special event for over 500 campaign volunteers from around the state.

Portman is locked in a battle with Strickland that has major implications for the Democrats' efforts to win back control of the Senate from the Republicans, who now hold 54 seats.

"The contest for the Senate majority will be determined by this race in Ohio,'' Portman told the Ohio Republicans Thursday.

The Democrats, he claimed, are putting one-quarter of the money they are spending on winning a Senate majority into Ohio.

"And it's all being spent on attack ads on me,'' Portman said.

But, the fact is, Portman and his GOP allies are expected to far outspend Strickland and the Democrats in this race.

A Quinnipiac University Poll released July 14 had Portman with a seven percentage point lead over Strickland, who had an early lead in the polls. The poll of 955 Ohio voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

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