LANCASTER, PA -- Even though a Republican presidential candidate has not won the Keystone State since 1988, one of Mitt Romney's top surrogates who just happens to be a potential vice presidential pick said he has "a feeling" Pennsylvania will turn red this November.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) today addressed more than 200 supporters at a rally here, one of 18 similar Romney events taking place throughout 12 states today while the presumptive nominee closes out his overseas trip. Portman's visit here marks the second time the Ohio senator has appeared in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania.
"I got a feeling Pennsylvania is going to be in the red column this year. You're going to paint the whole Commonwealth red starting right here in Lancaster County," Portman told an energized crowd. "I got a feeling about it. And it's going to be because, in 2008, we made a mistake."
Over the past week Romney surrogates have been out in full force in battleground states while the candidate is abroad. Speaking to reporters after the event, Portman defended the former Massachusetts governor trip to the United Kingdom, Israel, and Poland -- a journey that that has had its share of ups and downs.
"I think he's had a very strong trip to Israel," said Portman, later adding that the tour "shows people, one, that he does have a lot of foreign policy interest and background, but also that he's going to stand with our allies, which is incredibly important."
Romney first drew the ire of some in England after voicing concerns that the country was not ready to handle the Olympic games. Then, in Israel, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee was criticized for comments suggesting that the reason why Israel's economy has outpaced its neighbors (including the Palestinian Authority) is due to culture.
The Romney campaign has pushed back that the comments have been mischaracterized and that they were not meant to be a slight against Palestinians.
But the freshman Ohio senator did not focus his message on overseas policy, instead concentrating on an economic message that both Democrats and Republicans acknowledge will be the deciding factor in Rust Belt states.
"The private sector -- we talked about his successes. The governor of Massachusetts, folks, they don't call it Taxachusetts for nothing," said Portman. "It's got an 85% Democrat legislature, yet he cuts taxes 19 times working with them. He starts out with a budget deficit of $3 billion, he turns it around into a surplus and a rainy day fund of $2 billion. That's the kind of leadership we want, somebody who can bring people together and solve problems."
Portman, who was introduced as "potentially the next vice president of the United States," remained dismissive of the notion when speaking to reporters inquiring about his political future.
"I'm here helping Mitt Romney, I'm not here talking about myself," he said when asked what sets him apart from the other names being talked about as joining the national ticket.
But in terms of most utilized surrogates, Portman is near the top of the list. In addition to the numerous events and fundraisers in which he's participated on Romney's behalf in his home state, the former Office of Management and Budget Director under George W. Bush has also visited North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.
And asked whether or not he is ready for a new job, he again sidestepped the question.
"I'll let the Romney folks talk about readiness. As I have said before, Romney has plenty of choices -- a lot of people out there who can do the job. And, ultimately, people are voting for the president and not the VP."