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Portman in NH same time as Romney, but no meeting planned for possible VP pick

CONCORD, NH -- Potential vice presidential pick Rob Portman told reporters on Saturday that he has no plans to meet with presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, even though the two are spending time in the same state.

Speculation has been heavy about the prospect of Romney using his vacation in Wolfeboro, N.H., as a chance to meet with those on his VP short list, and news of the Ohio senator visiting the Granite State for a fundraiser only fanned the rumor flames. But Portman says he won't be dipping his toes into Lake Winnipesaukee.


"Some of you, I know, have been asking, you know, whether I've been to Wolfeboro," Portman told members of the press. "The answer is no. However, I have been on four college campuses in the last 48 hours."

The trip, Portman said, is about helping his youngest pick a school. But even if his visit here does not involve a sit down with the man who could dub him the next vice presidential nominee, his swing through New England is not only about his daughter's higher education choices.

Portman spoke to media before attending a Saturday fundraiser for the New Hampshire GOP. On Monday he'll fundraise in Boston for Romney's Victory Fund. And between them, he'll head to Maine to meet with someone who knows a bit about the vice presidency -- former President George H.W. Bush.

Portman remained mum on whether or not he is being vetted, but he played surrogate for the Romney campaign, defending the former Massachusetts governor's record on health care and time in the private sector. He said Romney and President Barack Obama"couldn't be further apart" on the issue of health care, and that Romney's time as head of Bain Capital is "a huge advantage."

Along with the attacks from Democrats, Portman defended the Romney campaign from recent criticism coming from those on the right.

"There has never been a campaign where there hasn't been sniping from the outside and second guessing," he said.  He later added, "I hear the same sometimes from the Democratic side in terms of President Obama's campaign, so that's to be expected."

Along with defending the nominee, Portman also defended himself against one of the reasons why he may get passed over as Romney's No. 2 -- his time in the George W. Bushadministration. Asked if his link to the former president could be a liability on a national ticket, Portman flatly said, "I don't know.  I served there in the Office of Management and Budget and also trade representative in a time when we had a strong economy, when we had deficits that we would die for today."

He also said he was unsure what effect the timing of a VP role out could have on the race.

"I'm not sure it matters a great deal," Portman said of the impact of the vice presidential announcement. "I think what matters is that there is energy and enthusiasm on the Republican side, and I see that this year."

He added, "There are plenty of surrogates out there for Mitt Romney as well, and some of those are on the so-called list. Others may not be. But I don’t think there is any shortage of interest among Republicans of getting behind Mitt Romney."

The Buckeye State senator was optimistic about Romney's chances in New Hampshire, a swing state.

"I think Mitt Romney's going to run very well here in the general election, in part because folks know who he is," he began his remarks.

Notoriety is one of Portman's biggest hurdles if he wants to continue as a political heavyweight on the national stage. Despite years in government service, previously as an Ohio Congressman, the Cincinnati native is somewhat unknown, even in his home state. But he continues to be tossed around as a top choice because of a resume that shows experience and his readiness to lead.
As for his VP choice, Portman had kind words for a senator whose state he is paying a visit.

"Kelly Ayotte would be a great choice," he said.