HH: I’m now joined by United States Senator Rob Portman to talk a little bit about this Cleveland decision. Senator, what a great day for Ohio, congratulations.
RP: Hugh, thank you. I give you full credit, because you’ve been bragging on Ohio on this program forever.
HH: Well, that’s a hometown, they could have put it in Warren, and it would be slightly better.
HH: But I don’t think they’ve got the hotel capacity. Robert Costa is crediting you with working this behind the scenes quite hard. How much truth in that, Senator?
RP: Well, I did work it quite hard, but the people who deserve the credit are the folks in Cleveland. You would have been very impressed to have seen this, Hugh, but the mayor, who as you know is a Democrat, Frank Jackson, came together with the Republicans, including the chairman of the local party, former chairman, Bob Bennett of the state party. And they said let’s go for this thing, and they put the business community together, they found a guy who’s an executive director who’s a retired CEO who’s done a great job, Terry Egger whom you may know, former publisher of the CPD, actually. And they really put together quite a proposal. And then when the host committee came, or the select committee from the RNC, they put Cleveland’s best foot forward. You know, they took them to all the great places and showed them the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and the lake in all of its beauty, and you know, the arena fits perfectly for what they need. So I give the local community the credit.
HH: Now when it comes time for the rest of the country to figure out that from the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame to the Science Center to Cleveland Browns stadium, or it’s First Energy now, up through the new, you know, Pickwick and whatever that is, E. 4th Street, Pickwick and Frolic…
HH: …all the way up over to the Q, it’s a great….
RP: The Blast and the Ohio City, and Little Italy, there’s some great neighborhoods.
HH: So that is a great, great day for Cleveland. We’ll talk about that. But in the Costa piece, he also said he sat down with you and talked about 2016, maybe on your mind, and that Governor Romney’s been encouraging you to explore that?
RP: Well, you know, you and I have talked about this before, and because you love to put me on the spot on this, which I appreciate, but look, I’m looking to run for reelection in Ohio in 2016. That’s my plan. I’m up, you know, at the same time for the United States Senate, and it’s an honor to get to represent this state. As frustrating as Washington is sometimes, I enjoy the fight for Ohio. So that’s what I plan to do.
HH: Let me ask you, though, does Ohio law prevent simultaneous runs? You know, in Florida, it does, and Marco Rubio said on this show if he runs for president, he’s not going to try and change the law. Kentucky law would prohibit Rand Paul, and he’s tried to change the law. I don’t know what the Buckeye state rule is.
RP: You know, I’m told the Buckeye state rule is you’re allowed to do both, and I don’t think it’s a good idea.
HH: Oh, okay. So you’ll make a decision one way or the other?
RP: Yeah, I think that’s what’s fair.
HH: Now would it complicate matters that your friend and colleague in the renewal of Ohio’s fortunes, John Kasich, will probably also be thinking about this?
RP: Well look, I think John’s done a really good job of trying to turn around what was an economic crisis, really, $8 billion dollar deficit and continued job loss. Our unemployment numbers were a point and a half above the national average. And you know, he’s closed that gap with a Republican legislature, without raising a single dime of taxes. In fact, he’s cut taxes. And he’s made Ohio more job friendly to the point that our unemployment number’s now below the national average. So I think he’s done a good job in Ohio, and I think you know, Republicans as a whole, we’ve got a Republican Senate, a Republican House, you know, we have a lot to talk about, and I think we’re going to hear a lot about that at the Republican convention in Cleveland.
HH: And we’ve got a turnaround in the Cleveland education system, and there’s been a lot of innovation. So let’s talk a little bit about what Costa raised, social issues. For me, the marriage issue, while we disagree, is not a decision that would any way influence who I want to run for president. I want the guy who can win, or the gal who can win. I don’t think that’s actually much of an issue in the Republican presidential primaries, do you?
RP: I don’t know. I think it’s less of an issue than it used to be, and the point I tried to make in that interview was you know, let’s show respect on both sides. And I think we’re lacking some of that on both sides. And yeah, and I think probably as compared to several years ago, it’s a much less important issue. The top issue by far, and has been, Hugh, in the last three presidential elections, is jobs and the economy.
RP: And you know, Obamacare is important as well right now, because people are suffering under this law that is not what it was promised. But the bottom line is people want to know do you have some ideas on getting this economy moving again, and we do. Republicans have a great advantage here, because we actually have reform ideas that’ll help people to be able to have a shot at the American dream, and that’s what folks want to hear.
HH: And I’m so glad that that message going into deep blue Cuyahoga County. Quick trivia question, how many times have you prepped candidates for presidential debates, Rob Portman?
RP: Oh, gosh, you know, it actually goes back to a role I played many years ago when someone came to me and said when I was a House member, would you please play Lamar Alexander in the debate prep with Bob Dole. So ever since then, I’ve been at it, I guess.
HH: You ought to count that up. That’s a great trivia question. Senator Rob Portman, congratulations on behalf of everyone in Ohio, and those who support it. You’ve done great.
End of interview.