Friday, November 10, 2000

Portman witnessed Cheney's highs, lows

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        There was a moment Tuesday night, as Rob Portman stood watching the presidential numbers roll in with Dick Cheney in an Austin hotel suite, that he felt he could see his friend's dream dying.

        The 2nd District congressman from Cincinnati was a guest of the Bush campaign in Austin for what he and millions of other Americans had hoped would be a quick and painless victory for the team of George W. Bush and Mr. Cheney.

        Mr. Portman spent the early evening with the vice presidential nominee, whom he had helped prepare for the vice presidential debate by playing the role of Joseph Lieberman in endless practice sessions.

        About 8 p.m. Cincinnati time, as the congressman and the former defense secretary stood watching the early projections roll in on MSNBC, a graphic flashed on the screen awarding Pennsylvania and its 23 electoral votes to Democrat Al Gore.

        Earlier, the cable news network had projected Mr. Gore the winner in Florida as well; and, with those two key states in the Gore column, it appeared their long struggle to make the Texas governor president and Mr. Cheney vice president might well be over.

        “It was like the air was let out of the room,” Mr. Portman said Wednesday night from his Austin hotel room.

        “I'm standing right next to the man who could have been the next vice president of the United States, and I am watching it slip away from him,” Mr. Portman said.

        Mr. Portman has known the Wyoming Republican since the late 1980s, when Mr. Cheney was defense secretary and Mr. Portman headed up the legislative affairs office in President Bush's White House.

        Mr. Portman returned to Cincinnati on Thursday after an early morning meeting in Austin with Mr. Cheney.

        The Cincinnati congressman — because of his work in the first Bush White House and his high- profile campaign role — is rumored to be a leading candidate for a job in a new Bush administration, if there is one.


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