-Convention Coverage
2:12 pm
Tue August 28, 2012

Boehner and Portman: This is the most important election ever

Tuesday afternoon, as the first session of the delayed Republican National Convention was unfolding on the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, House Speaker John Boehner made a bold assertion to Ohio reporters.

"You've all heard people talking about elections in the past being the most important election in their lifetimes,'' Boehner said, with Sen. Rob Portman of Terrace Park sitting at his side.

"They're wrong,'' the speaker from West Chester said. "This is the most important election in our lifetimes."

Both Portman and Boehner said it is a choice between the Romney-Ryan ticket - which they say represents new ideas and competence in handling economic issues and job creation - and the Obama-Biden administration, which they said has failed to deliver.

"He promised to fix the economy,'' said Portman, who was on the short list of possibilities for the GOP vice presidential nomination. "He didn't. And people are going to see that."

Polls in Ohio, a key battleground state, show the Obama-Romney contest to be a dead heat, with about 10 percent of the electorate undecided and perhaps another 10 percent willing to change their minds.

"I can tell you this, from traveling around the state, the people who have not made up their minds care about jobs and the economy,'' Portman said.

Both Boehner and Portman bristled at the Obama campaign making the argument that it inherited an economic mess from the administration of President George W. Bush and are telling voters it would be foolish to return to the failed policies of the past.

"That's not what's happening here,'' Portman said. "Mitt Romney has his own plans, his own ideas. And he will sell them to the American people because they are common sense solutions."

To Boehner, the choice is simple.

"It's all about economics,'' the speaker said. "(Obama) made it worse. We can make it better."

It came out earlier in the day that Portman will serve as the surrogate for President Obama in Romney prep sessions for the presidential debates.

Portman said he was approached in the "late spring or early summer" by the Romney campaign about taking on that role - right in the middle of all the national speculation about Portman being on the ticket.

"Of course, I told him I would help him any way I could,'' said Portman, who has played the roles of opponents in debate preparations for President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other GOP candidates.