Discuss as:

Portman: 'If we don't win Ohio, it's tough to see us winning the election nationally'

FAIRVIEW PARK, OH -- Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, the chairman of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign in the Buckeye State, said Friday that it would be tough for Romney to win the election without carrying Ohio.

Al Behrman / AP

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, shakes hands with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, after Portman introduced Romney at a campaign stop at Jet Machine, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, in Cincinnati.

"I'm feeling the pressure not just because I'm chairing the effort here in Ohio, but mostly because I feel the pressure for our country and what's going to happen over the next four years," Portman told NBC News on Friday while traveling between campaign stops for Romney. "If we don't win Ohio, it's tough to see us winning the election nationally. It's possible, but it's very difficult."

Paul Beck, Ohio State University professor, describes the importance of winning Ohio, a battleground with a large number of electoral votes. It's a diverse state with liberals and conservatives matching a cross section of the nation.

Most of the recent attention the Ohio senator has received has centered on the key role he played in Romney's debate preparation and how close he came to being chosen as the GOP vice presidential nominee. But before he took on any of those roles, he was tapped by Romney to lead the former Massachusetts governor's effort in the key battleground state.

"We're doing better in Cleveland, and Cincinnati and Columbus and Toledo where we have some of the numbers of the absentee and early voting, we're doing better than we expected we would," he told volunteers gathered at the Avon Lake Victory Center. "We're exceeding our targets."

Portman told the crowd that internal Romney polling shows the state is a dead heat with with 11 days to go until Election Day. He's making five stops in North east Ohio today before appearing at a rally with Romney and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan tonight. At each stop, the man who ran a successful statewide campaign just two years earlier, said the grassroots effort will make the difference in this state.

It's a difference, Portman feels, that will give Romney the edge here on Election Day.

"I believe the Obama campaign probably has a pretty effective grassroots infrastructure, but I dont think you can compete with volunteers who really have their heart in it and are fired up for all the right reasons," he said.