Rich Lowry promotes Paul Ryan as the best choice for Romney’s running mate, and then oddly says this about Portman:
Rob Portman is highly capable but is a former Bush official at a time when the Obama campaign is eager to define Romney as Bush redux.
Yes, Portman was Bush’s budget director and trade representative. He and Ryan have essentially identical voting records as Bush-era House members, and Ryan’s Congressional career overlapped with the Bush years even more than Portman’s. If Portman is being ruled out here because of his connections to Bush, Ryan should be, too. Considering that Ryan’s Bush-era voting record makes a mockery of his new status as an advocate of fiscal responsibility, his time in Congress while Bush was in office is even more damaging than Portman’s very brief stints as a Bush appointee. As this comparison shows, trying to distinguish between the two is a rather fruitless exercise. If Portman is unacceptably associated with Bush, so is Ryan. If Ryan lacks credibility as a fiscal conservative because of his Bush-era votes for the Iraq war and Medicare Part D, among other things, so does Portman. Let’s not forget that these are widely regarded to be some of Romney’s best available choices.
Under the circumstances, choosing Ryan over Portman would amount to selecting the slightly less qualified man in a misguided belief that Ryan is more removed from Bush than Portman is. Since Romney’s campaign is overflowing with Bush administration veterans, it’s a bit late to be worrying about creating the impression that electing Romney would represent a return to the Bush era. Romney does represent a return to the Bush era, so he may as well run alongside someone Bush appointed. At least with Portman, Romney won’t be campaigning with a virtual foreign policy novice.