DENVER, Colo. – Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH, visited Colorado Wednesday hoping to create a clear contrast between the GOP and President Barack Obama. And in front of a famed Obama backdrop, that difference looked as clear as it sounded.
The Ohio senator hopped out of a Mitt Romney campaign bus parked near the football stadium where, in 2008, then-candidate Obama delivered a rousing address before tens of thousands of emphatic supporters. Portman, however, addressed just 50 supporters in the unpaved parking lot outside Sports Authority Field.
"Four years ago this month, at the stadium right behind us, Barack Obama gave an interesting speech, didn't he?" Portman said. He picked apart Obama's speech, listing promises the president made about the economy and jobs that Portman said he hasn’t kept. Portman also noted the development of clean coal technologies and U.S. energy resources like natural gas and oil as failures.
"He said, you know, elect me and I'm going to bring people together to solve big problems. Has he done that? No he hasn't, sadly he has not," Portman said.
Another difference in setting that he pointed out was the absence of the Greek pillars that stood behind Obama during his convention speech, a visual that has become a Republican talking point since Greece's economic chaos of recent years.
"I expected to have the Parthenon behind me or something, whatever he had that day," Portman joked.
Portman's visit to the site of the 2008 Democratic National Convention was just one of five stops he made in the Centennial State on Wednesday, the same day Obama made campaign stops throughout the state.
And though the low-key potential vice presidential contender did not match the crowd size or attention as the president’s stop, he did have some boasting rights about a new poll that shows Romney ahead of Obama in this critical swing state.
Romney holds a tight lead over Obama in Colorado, according to a recently released Quinnipiac/New York Times/CBS News poll.
"Guess what's going to welcome President Obama to Colorado as he lands here this morning? Some new poll numbers out ... showing that Mitt Romney is ahead by five points in Colorado," Portman said during the day's first stop at a gas station in Johnston, Colo. "So look, they've outspent us but they cannot outwork us, right?"
Although the Buckeye State senator has remained mum on whether he wants or plans to join the national ticket, his schedule of late has been as busy as what one might expect from a national candidate. He raised more than $500,000 for Romney in his home state of Ohio during fundraisers on Monday and Tuesday, a dollar amount he today said was a "lowball" estimate. And, with the presumptive nominee's deep bench of surrogates, it was Portman who got the call to bracket the president in the important swing state.
But also on display during the senator's trip here was how unknown he is. At Johnson's Corner truck stop, onlookers eating breakfast or filling up on gas saw the large bus emblazoned with Romney's name and wanted to know if the candidate was onboard. When told it was Portman, several admitted they were unfamiliar with the name.
Portman’s trip was half bracketing and half rallying the troops on his own side of the aisle. Portman visited three Romney Victory Centers where he made phone calls and greeted volunteers and staffers. He used his experience as a politician in a swing state to motivate the grassroots effort. He told a gathering of Romney supporters in Jefferson County that their work could determine the outcome of the election, and with it, the fate of the country.
"As goes JeffCo, so goes Colorado. As goes Colorado, so goes the nation," Portman said.