Center Seat: Will Sen. Portman run in 2016?

Ohio lawmaker takes Center Seat


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 13, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: We're back with our Center Seat panel and Senator Rob Portman. Senator, just this past week Mitt Romney was asked about who he thinks should run for president who he would support, and you are on his list, Rob Portman?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN, R - OH: A long list.

BAIER: A long list --


BAIER: Are you going to run?

PORTMAN: I'm planning to run for re-election. I'm up the same year 2016. So at this point, I plan to run for reelection in my great state of Ohio.

BAIER: You were the debate partner where you played Joe Biden.  ObviouslY, you got a lot of respect from the Romney campaign. But will you consider it? I mean, are you going to make that decision at some point?

PORTMAN: By the way, I played Obama and I have also played various other folks on the Democratic side. I don't know why they keep coming to me, you know. But -- and I have enjoyed that, and playing that role for Mitt Romney was good because you get to hear what the other side is actually thinking and doing and saying, and I think sometimes we as Republicans and probably Democrats do the same thing, aren't listening. And I think it's important to hear what the other side is saying so that you can better rebut what they are saying and be able to offer an alternative.

But, no, I'm planning to stay in the Senate, continue to do the best I can to try to spread this message about economic growth. And then, as I said, there are folks who are going to find behind and through the cracks even when you have economic growth. And what do we do not just as Republicans but as a country to deal with it?


A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Senator, Democrats believe and some Republicans are starting to believe that a comprehensive immigration reform with a legalization component and some kind of openness or support for same-sex marriage are a gateway issues to many voters in this country, and that until and unless a Republican nominee shifts on one or both they are hindering their path to building a national coalition for the White House. Do you believe that that's true?

PORTMAN: Look, I think there are a lot of issues out there. I think, as you know, I have been very involved in the same-sex marriage issue over the last year. And I do think among young people it's a critical issue. Not just young people, but I think in order to sort of break through and talk about the other issues that every young person should care about, the impact of ObamaCare, which is particularly pernicious for young people, the debt and deficit, the weak economy and the lack of a job when they get out of school, you sometimes have to break through on some of these other issues. And one is showing some respect on the same-sex marriage issue. So I do think there is some truth to that.

And I think our party is beginning to change on all these issues. Maybe not, you know, in the sense of the platform changing, certainly, but I do think that there is more respect being shown and I think there is a bigger tent approach. I think that's appropriate.

STODDARD: Can a candidate win in '16 or '20 without shifting on one or both issues?

PORTMAN: We'll see. Candidates win in this country because independent voters think that they would be better to lead than the other person. That's true in my state of Ohio and its' true nationally. And I think the two issues you mentioned are very important to many people out there who are, particularly as you say, young people and maybe the Hispanic community particularly on those issues.

But there are so many issues, such a broad range, I think people look at the totality of the candidate, whether the candidate has an agenda that is compassionate, that's understanding of what the real problems are out there. We talked about that earlier today, dealing with this pernicious poverty which has gotten worse, not better, and whether they have a growth message. The top issue will always be jobs and the economy, I believe.

BAIER: I want to get to foreign policy. Jason?

JASON RILEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Are you satisfied with the Obama administration's response to the kidnappings of the Nigerian schoolgirls, or should would he be doing more than tweeting our outrage? Should would he be sending in special forces? What say you?

PORTMAN: I'm pleased that they have sent in some American assets, including monitoring assets. As you may know, I started the human trafficking caucus in the Senate. I have been involved in this issue and I talked about it today at the speech we talked about. I do think that it's good that they have taken some steps. I would be more aggressive. But I applaud them for what they have done. And it also has helped raise awareness of this issue generally. Sex trafficking doesn't just occur in Nigeria or just in Asia. It occurs right here in this country.

RILEY: The select committee for Benghazi, should the Senate play a role or do you think that the House can handle this?

PORTMAN: No. The Senate should play a role. We should have our own select committee. I would prefer it to be bicameral, in other words, have a House and Senate committee working together. I think you have got to get to the bottom of this issue. I think frankly, it's in the administration's interests to do that more quickly rather than have it be closer to a 2016 election because I think the American people are looking for and deserve answers. And, you know, four Americans were left behind and, you know, we have all kinds of different theories as to why the administration did not say that it was a terrorist attack. We need to find out why and what happened.

And then, finally, and this is something that I think sometimes we miss, Jason, is the next day the president went out to the Rose Garden and said these people will be brought to justice who committed these terrorist attacks, as he says, although it was talked about terrorism generally. If that's the case, what's happened? Have any of those individuals been brought to justice? The answer is no.

BAIER: Senator, thank you very much for being on Center Seat. We would love to have you back some time.

PORTMAN: Great to be with you.

BAIER: That's it for the panel. But stay tuned to see this, an age old answer to an age old question, and it involves Senator Portman.

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