Monday, June 23, 2003

His next stop in politics is a mystery

Many say Rep. Portman could go far, but nobody seems to know where

By Carl Weiser
Enquirer Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Everyone agrees Rep. Rob Portman is a rising star. The question is, rising to where?

Governor? There are too many Republicans already running to replace Gov. Bob Taft in 2006, said Curt Steiner, a Columbus political consultant who ran Portman's first campaign.

Senate? Sen. George Voinovich is running again in 2004, and Sen. Mike DeWine has already announced he's running in 2006. That means the earliest vacancy for a Senate seat wouldn't be until 2010.

Stay in the House? Portman is soaring now, thanks to his contacts in the Bush White House. But his power would diminish if President Bush loses in 2004. Even if Bush wins another term, he has to vacate the White House in January 2009.

Portman is constantly rumored for administration positions. In the past month alone he has been mentioned as the next White House budget director and the head of the Republican National Committee.

"I'd love to see him in the Senate, in the administration, chief of staff," said Susan Laffoon, the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce's vice president for public affairs. "I could see him as president of the United States. From Ohio! That's not a joke. I could see Rob going anywhere."

The "what's next" question is one Portman gets frequently. Even high school kids in Adams County asked him recently if he had any ambition for higher office.

"Man, you're putting me on the spot," he said. "I'm happy where I am. I can get some stuff done right now. If anything, I'd like to spend more time with my family."

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