COLUMBUS, OH -- Even though he is not yet on the Republican presidential ticket, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman already feels the burden of delivering his home state for presumptive nominee Mitt Romney.
"I already feel the pressure," Portman said when asked whether he felt he would be responsible for ensuring the Buckeye State is red this November if chosen as Romney's running mate. "I'm chairing the effort here in Ohio and again I'm feeling good about things because there is a just a lot of volunteers who are stepping forward. I haven't seen energy like this in past elections, presidential or otherwise... My focus is going to be Ohio. And I do believe that this year, Ohio could make the difference again."
The freshman Ohio senator was on hand at Romney's Ohio headquarters to mark the 1 millionth voter contact in the state. He made calls and spoke to volunteers who he believes will make the difference in this close battleground state.
"We're not a red state, we're not a blue state. We're a purple state. Ohio is a classic swing state. And I think at the end of the day, the difference is going to be grassroots," he said, later adding, "The leader of the free world is really determined by our state."
Portman is considered by many to be a leading contender for Republican vice presidential nominee. One reason is the presidential importance of his home state. Ohio GOP chairman Bob Bennett was quoted last week saying the senator would give Romney three to five points in the state if he were to join the ticket.
Asked if he agreed with that assessment, Portman said, "I don't know. What I do know is I'm going to work my heart out for him and help him, you know, and I'm going to be chairing the campaign here in Ohio."
While addressing volunteers, Portman picked up on Republicans' most recent attacks on President Barack Obama's recent "you didn't build that" comment. Portman said he has read the speech transcript three times, and does not think the president's words have been taken out of context.
"I've heard the media push back on that and some of them have questioned me and said 'Boy, it was taken out of context.' So today on the ride up from Cincinnati I looked at the speech again. I've now looked at it three time," he said. "And not only do I believe the president was speaking the truth and it's kind of a -- I think -- a view into his soul and his thinking."
"What the president was saying to these businesses is: 'You know what? You need to pay higher taxes because you didn't build it.' "
Portman will head to neighboring Pennsylvania on Monday to stump for Romney.