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Veep possibility Portman dismisses talk that he's trying to distance himself from his Bush job

Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images file

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio has been mentioned as a possible vice preisdential pick for Mitt Romney.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on Friday said he was not trying to distance himself from former President George W. Bush when he said he was "frustrated" during his time as budget director.

Portman, who served as Bush's director of management and budget for a little over a year, told The Hill newspaper, “I was frustrated when I was there about some spending issues — specifically, as you know, I wanted to offer a balanced budget over five years, and a lot of people didn’t." The comments pointed to an attempt by the Ohio senator, thought of as a top prospect to be chosen as Mitt Romney's running mate, to distance himself from his association with the younger Bush.

But speaking to reporters after touring the Ohio State Fair on Friday, Portman dismissed the notion.

"I've said that for years, ever since I was at OMB," said Portman. "It's a frustrating job, it's probably the toughest job in Washington. And by the way, my frustration continues. Im extremely frustrated. In the Senate, we're not doing what we ought to be doing."

One of the most frequently cited reasons why the Buckeye State senator may not be asked to join the national ticket is his connection to the Bush administration, which Democrats have continued to point to as a reason behind the sluggish economic recovery. When addressing new jobs numbers released Friday, President Barack Obama said, "We’re not going to get to where we need to be if we go back to the policies that helped to create this mess in the first place."

Asked if it was fair to draw a link between him and the Bush years, Portman would only say that is "proud" of his time as U.S. trade representative and budget director.

The possible GOP vice presidential nominee remains busy this weekend stumping for Romney throughout his home state. And at the state fair, the Ohioans he spoke to were just as interested as the media about his political future. Some hoped he could work to represent the country on a national level, others telling him that Ohio needs him to stay.

Portman maintains that no one from the Romney campaign has tipped him off as to when a VP announcement could come. "They keep that very close hold," he told reporters. When asked what role he might play in the Romney campaign, he said, "I don't know" and talked about how focused he is on the state of Ohio.

And while the freshman senator has been criticized for being relatively unknown, even in his own state, the VP buzz may be helping out a bit. A steady stream of people were interested in meeting Portman, others doing double takes as he walked by.

"They're probably wondering why I'm walking around with a donut hamburger," he said.

Portman sampled the donut hamburger before the deep fried buckeyes but after the pork loin sandwich.