Tales from the Trail

A Number Cruncher could add up to become Romney running mate

Washington number crunchers are finally getting some respect.

Just take a look at Mitt Romney’s search for a Republican vice presidential running mate.

With the economy the top issue in the Nov. 6 elections, Romney’s short list of his possible picks features two of Congress’s most wonkish guys.

One, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, served as President George W. Bush’s budget director, and is now viewed as a top contender.

The other, Paul Ryan, is chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee.

Numbers crunchers have long been seen as political stiffs.

They could bore a crowd, not build one.

They could inform a generation, not inspire one.

Times have changed.

“Being wonkish is no longer a liability. It’s politically sexy,” said Greg Valliere of Potomac Research Group, a private firm that tracks Washington for investors.

For Portman, it all comes down to beer

Rob Portman is upset about the tax laws that make a real American beer hard to find.

The senator from Ohio, who is seen as a leading candidate to be Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, spoke out at the Reuters Washington Summit against tax policy that puts American companies at a disadvantage.

“I’m a beer drinker and I’m particularly upset by the fact there is no big U.S. beer company any more,” said Portman, a former budget director who criticized the Obama administration for failing to overhaul corporate taxes in the United States.

Reuters-Ipsos Poll: Republican Portman leads in Ohio Senate race

It’s a bad news and not-so-bad news scenario for Democrats in Ohio.

The bad news is in the Senate race where Republican Rob Portman has a strong 13-point lead over Democrat Lee Fisher, 50 percent to 37 percent, according to a Reuters-Ipsos poll.

USA-ELECTION/“It’s starting to look insurmountable,” Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson says of the lead held by President George W. Bush’s former budget director and U.S. trade representative.

A majority of Ohio voters, 60 percent,  said Portman’s work with Bush made no difference in their vote, while another 30 percent of registered voters said it made them less likely to vote for Portman, including one in five independents. Nine percent said it made them more likely to vote for him.

Washington Extra – Tragedy in Alaska

ted_stevensThere were three big stories competing for our attention in Washington today. The first was the tragic death of former Senator Ted Stevens in a small plane crash in his home state of Alaska. Stevens, the longest serving Republican senator ever, was on a fishing trip with Sean O’Keefe, the North American chief of European aerospace giant and Airbus maker EADS, who was among the survivors.

Dominating eyeballs in the financial markets was the Federal Reserve’s surprise decision to move back in the direction of what it calls “quantitative easing.” The Fed will use cash from maturing mortgage bonds it holds to buy more government debt. So for now, there is no more talk of an “exit strategy” from the extraordinary monetary stimulus the central bank delivered during the financial crisis. It is a significant policy shift for the Fed, and a sign it does not view the recent slowing in the economy as simply a soft patch.

The third is our exclusive Reuters/IPSOS poll from Ohio, which showed Republican Rob Portman holding a narrow lead over Democrat Lee Fisher in a race marked by, guess what, concerns over the economy and unemployment. Interesting nuggets in the survey too about who voters blame for the economic mess. Bankers and Wall Street were identified by 93 percent of voters as mostly or partially to blame for the economic downturn, while Bush’s administration was blamed by 86 percent. Obama, though, did not get off scot-free, with 69 percent of voters also holding his administration at fault.

Republicans Portman, Kasich lead in Ohio races

Republicans Rob Portman, a former White House budget director, and John Kasich, a former House member, so far are leading in their races for new jobs in economically hard-hit and politically important Ohio.

That’s according to our new Reuters-Ipsos poll. OBAMA/

Portman leads Democrat Lee Fisher in the U.S. Senate race by 43 percent to 36 percent in the poll of likely voters, with less than three months to go until the Nov. 2 congressional elections.

Kasich has a 48 percent to 39 percent lead over incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland in the Ohio governor’s race.

U.S. Senate Democratic contender bashes Democratic-led Washington

If there was any question that Democrats were in for a tough election year, go no further than Lee Fisher’s campaign flyer that’s been mailed OBAMA-HEALTHCAREout to Ohio voters.

“Washington is Working Against Ohio Families” it warns in large letters superimposed over a picture of dark storm clouds hovering over the U.S. Capitol.  On the flyer’s backside is the declaration: “Washington is broken and has let us down.”

As he tries to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator George Voinovich, Fisher’s campaign seems to be taking on the Democrats who control the White House and both chambers of the U.S. Congress.