CONCORD — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman declined to talk about possibly being selected as the Republican vice presidential nominee during a stop in New Hampshire on Saturday, directing all questions on the subject to the man who has been vacationing 40 miles away last week.
The Ohio Republican stopped in Concord for a state GOP fundraiser later Saturday, taking a break from his 17-year-old daughter's New England college tour. The latest stop was Dartmouth, Portman's alma mater.
He was also scheduled to be in Boston on Monday for more fundraising, but said his itinerary did not include a visit with Mitt Romney at his vacation home in Wolfeboro.
Portman is chairman of the Romney campaign in Ohio, a critical state in the presidential race because of its wealth of electoral votes. Portman said any news about Romney's choice — whenever he makes it — will come from the soon-to-be Republican nominee himself.
“That's really up to the campaign. I'm not going to address them,” Portman said.
Portman met with New Hampshire reporters for about half an hour and offered unflinching support for Romney and the party, saying the former Massachusetts governor should do well here in the general election. Romney won the Granite State's first-in-the-nation primary back in January and is familiar to the state's residents. It also falls under the category of “undecided.”
“Ohio is like New Hampshire — a classic swing state. We happen to have a few more electoral votes, but we have a very similar situation where the polling is moving back and forth,” he said. “It looks to us like it's a dead heat.”
Ohio has 18 electoral votes, 14 more than New Hampshire's. But the Granite State is not being overlooked in the fundraising effort before the GOP convention late next month in Tampa, Fla.
Romney and family have been in Wolfeboro for the Fourth of July, but there has been no public word on when he will come up with a running mate. The fact that Portman was in the same state at the same time added to speculation that he may be on the short list, but Portman backed off on his “no comment” stance slightly and said there was no visit planned with Romney during his stay in New Hampshire. Beyond that, Portman said very little about the vice presidency. He did drop the name of U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H, before wrapping up, saying she would be a good choice.
Ayotte, who marched with Romney in Wolfeboro's Fourth of July parade, has declined to discuss the subject.
Portman also made repeated statements about President Barack Obama, saying the current administration is failing in its attempts to turn around the economy.
He said Romney has a proven record as a business entrepreneur who knows how business works, can reform the tax code and create jobs. Portman pointed to the U.S. Labor Department's unemployment figures released Friday — unchanged at 8.2 percent.
“These are very troubling times — times that require leadership,” Portman said. “What we've seen is him (Obama) putting in place policies and making promises he hasn't been able to keep because the policies are not working.”
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Doug Alden may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.