Portman is ready for the job and, more importantly, primed for the obligations that will fall upon Romney if he’s elected. In the transition, Romney will need skilled and quicksilver advice and guidance on the magilla lame-duck session that’s coming. In those precious few weeks in November and December the nation will have to decide the fate of the following: the expiring Bush tax cuts, the expiring payroll-tax cut, unfinished spending bills, the expiring Medicare “doc fix” that shielded physicians from a 27 percent premium cut, extended unemployment benefits, the scheduled $1.2 trillion across-the-board discretionary spending cut (sequester), the farm bill, and quite probably, a transportation bill. Oh, and one other thing. A $3 trillion debt-ceiling increase will come up then or right after Inauguration Day. A lame-duck Congress with a president-elect may decide to punt these tough issues to the new administration. If so, no governor or minty-fresh Tea Party senator will suffice. Portman knows the West Wing like few others (he also served in the White House Counsel’s Office and the Office of Legislative Affairs under President Bush the elder). He knows the House and Senate and served on the super committee. He knows what the numbers are, what they mean, and how the politics of budget, taxation, and trade work. Romney will have to govern and govern quick. The headaches will be immediate and the choices difficult. If governing matters, Portman prevails.
Portman is to Romney what Al Gore was to Bill Clinton. He amplifies the central message and the skills set the “alternative” ticket brings. The choice is about President Obama and another term. It’s a firing choice more than a hiring choice. In this context, the alternative needs to be acceptable, not exciting. Portman is not Romney in miniature and Romney isn’t Portman in miniature. But they are both boardroom-ready and politically inclined. They are cool, analytical, data-driven and conversant in the central issue of the day — the economy. This is not ’92 and Romney won’t have a force carving up the Democratic base like Ross Perot did to Bush the elder. Romney’s not charismatic and never will be. Portman reinforces all that Romney offers or hopes to offer the country. And won’t suffer charisma comparisons to Portman. Don’t kid yourself that this doesn’t matter to Romney.