CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio fans of Sen. Rob Portman, passed over as Mitt Romney's Republican running mate, don't expect him to go far from the national stage.
Romney introduced Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, a Miami University of Ohio graduate, as his vice presidential choice Saturday in Norfolk, Va., ending months of speculation that usually included Portman as among the top possibilities. Portman, taking part in a fundraising bicycle ride for cancer research in central Ohio, said in a statement that he had worked closely with Ryan and considered him among his best friends in Washington.
"He is an accomplished public servant and a leading voice on the most pressing issues facing our country," Portman said.
Portman said as Romney campaign chairman in Ohio, he will work hard to make sure the ticket carries the pivotal state.
Hamilton County GOP chairman Alex Triantafilou, in Portman's home Cincinnati area, said he thought the national attention Portman has gotten for months during the vice-presidential search scrutiny has helped him politically — and that if Romney is elected, the two-time Cabinet-level official's name would quickly surface in Cabinet nominee discussions.
"No doubt, he would be on a short list for a Cabinet post," Triantafilou said. "And on a short list to run for president after Mitt Romney's eight years are over."
Gerald Austin, a longtime Democratic consultant in Ohio, had said before the choice was made that he doubted being passed over would harm the 56-year-old Portman politically.
"In 2008, John McCain considered Mitt Romney, but didn't pick him. It didn't hurt him; it probably helped him," Austin said. "Being considered is something important."
Probably the biggest knock against Portman had been his links to George W. Bush, after serving as a trade and then budget official for the president who left office unpopular and amid a national financial crisis. But Triantafilou said he didn't think critics raised anything damaging for Portman's reputation.
"This process only helped him," he said.
While Portman was the home-state favorite, Ohio tea party activists said Ryan will bring energy and focus on the nation's fiscal issues.
"From a local perspective, I was really pulling for Rob Portman, but I think nationally, this is a great choice," said George Brunemann, president of the Cincinnati tea party. Brunemann said Ryan's fiscal conservative credentials will help pull tea party activists and Republican Party regulars together in the 2012 elections.
The president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition agreed, saying the choice of Ryan makes it clear that the national debt and deficit will be in the forefront of the campaign.
"We were obviously pulling for Rob," said Tom Zawistowski of the coalition of some 80 tea party and related groups. But he said Ryan will be an exciting choice for conservatives.
"Romney wanted to draw attention to that this is really about finances; the nation's crisis, both current and future," Zawistowski said in Columbus.
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