Unlike Kasich, Ohio Republicans do not expect Portman to come out early and endorse anyone in the presidential campaign. Known for being cautious and reserved when it comes to his politics, the wonky Portman, locals say, views the early campaign horse race as a “distraction.” Portman, who is a big fan of DeWine, has indicated in previous interviews that his intention is to remain neutral in the GOP presidential primary in favor of helping all of the candidates make inroads in Ohio in preparation for the general election.
Once the GOP nominee has been picked, Republicans expect that person to knock on Portman’s door. The freshman Senator holds the keys to donors’ hearts and wallets in southwest Ohio, one of the wealthiest parts of the state.
“He’s more blue blood,” said one Republican operative in the state. “The money people really like Rob Portman because he knows the game. He’s the type of person that Republican money people really like.”
Portman is also viewed as crucial to the region’s ground game, which has become a battleground for votes in recent presidential cycles. Presidential campaigns have been won or lost depending on turnout in the handful of counties that Portman knows better than any other politician in the country.
But while Kasich and Portman each have varying degrees of public involvement in the presidential race, Ohio Republicans expect Boehner to stay out of it almost completely.
In recent cycles, Boehner has escalated his role in Ohio politics by recruiting potential House candidates and spending the final few days of last election cycle campaigning in his home state. This cycle, Boehner will have his hands full defending the Republican majority in the Ohio delegation as well as in the House. He’ll also be dealing with consequences of redistricting in Ohio, which will lose two House districts next year — likely including one held by one of the Speaker’s GOP colleagues.
“He’s going to stay focused on his leadership role and make sure that he maintains our position as best as we can in Ohio,” freshman Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) said. “All five freshmen Members of Congress are ready for whatever comes their way.”
For those reasons, Boehner will most likely take a backseat from any of the presidential drama in his home state.
“Portman sees that kind of thing as a distraction, where as Kasich sees it as a non-issue,” said P.J. Wenzel, a longtime Republican operative in Ohio. “And Boehner, it’s not his wheelhouse. It’s not what he’s focused on.”