Portman Retracts Trump Support

Ohio GOP senator had endorsed Trump but kept him at arm's length

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said he will vote for Gov. Mike Pence. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said he will vote for Gov. Mike Pence. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 8, 2016 at 10:27pm

Ohio Republican Rob Portman retracted his endorsement of Donald Trump Saturday night, the most recent incumbent senator to do so after a video surfaced of the GOP presidential nominee making lewd comments about women.

The list of Republican members of Congress and candidates who have retracted their endorsement of Trump has rapidly grown after a decade-old video of the billionaire nominee making derogatory comments about women was revealed by The Washington Post.

Portman’s comments struck a similar tone to those from Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, about wanting to reflect the popular will of the voters.

“I thought it was appropriate to respect the millions of voters across the country who chose Donald Trump as the Republican Party nominee,” Portman said in a statement. “While I continue to respect those who still support Donald Trump, I can no longer support him.”

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Portman endorsed Trump after he became the presumptive nominee in May but kept Trump at arms’ length throughout the election.

He had previously endorsed his state’s Gov. John Kasich but reluctantly supported Trump afterward.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the end, but I think he’ll be helpful because he’s bringing new people to the party,” Portman told Roll Call in June.

He has now changed course.

“I continue to believe our country cannot afford a Hillary Clinton presidency,” Portman’s statement also said. “I will be voting for Mike Pence for president.”

In many ways, Portman embodied the Republican establishment that many Trump supporters dislike.

He served in the House from 1993 to 2005, and voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement. He then served as U.S. trade representative; in that position, he worked on the Central America Free Trade Agreement.

Conversely, Trump has frequently criticized free trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Portman had voted for Trade Promotion Authority last year, which allowed for free trade deals like the TPP to be subject to an up-or-down vote without amendments.

But earlier this year, Portman said he opposed the TPP in its current form.

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Portman also held events in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention in June for supporters but did not speak at the convention.

Portman’s Democratic opponent, former Gov. Ted Strickland, criticized the senator’s statement.

“For months, Sen. Portman has stood by and propped up Trump as he has engaged in a campaign of hate and division,” Strickland campaign spokesman David Bergstein said in a statement.

But Portman has opened a wide lead in recent polls, and many Democratic groups have delayed advertising in Ohio for Strickland.

Strickland also came under criticism on Friday when a video was released of him saying Ohio taxpayers had been “raped by the charter school for-profit entities in this state and the e-school.”

The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call recently changed the race rating from “Leans Republican” to ”Republican Favored.”