CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio’s Republican U.S. senator, Rob Portman, said Friday he plans to meet with President Barack Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, although he still believes the vacancy should be left until after this election.
Portman also told reporters he intends to support the party’s nominee for president, but really wants it to be Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
The first-term senator is facing a heated re-election campaign against former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, who has been criticizing Portman for opposing filling the high court vacancy left this year by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Strickland’s campaign has also criticized Portman’s position that he will back the eventual nominee in the GOP race as businessman Donald Trump continues to lead.
Portman, who is anti-abortion, expressed strong disagreement with Trump’s comments this week about punishing women for abortions if they become illegal. Trump subsequently backtracked from his statement.
“I like John Kasich a whole lot better,” Portman replied when asked about Trump.
He said Kasich has “the right experience and the right character” to be a good president, and has a good chance to win in November.
Kasich is hoping to win the nomination in an open convention in Cleveland this July. Portman said he supports sticking to the rules and having “a fair process,” and thinks that leaves the potential opening for Kasich.
“If he (Trump) doesn’t have the majority going in, then I think the delegates ought to have the ability to do what the rules provide, which is during the second ballot, to be free to choose who they think the right person is.
“And again, I think John Kasich has made a really good point. Not only does he have the experience, and record, but he also … has a very good chance to win in a general election,” Portman said.
Portman said he’s making arrangements to meet with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, possibly as soon as next week. He said he was looking forward to the meeting, but thinks a confirmation process would face an “ugly,” highly partisan fight in a political year, and should wait.
Portman was visiting the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health facility in Cincinnati. There are efforts to consolidate the federal agency’s operations in Cincinnati, where it has some 550 workers in three locations.
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