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Published: Sunday, 8/12/2012

Rejected for spot on ticket, Portman praises Ryan pick

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) rides in a fund-raiser in Columbus. After the ride Saturday, he called Paul Ryan 'a great choice.' U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) rides in a fund-raiser in Columbus. After the ride Saturday, he called Paul Ryan 'a great choice.'

COLUMBUS -- If U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio was disappointed that his chance to become vice president had vanished, he didn't show it.

Wearing a scarlet and gray Buckeye cycling jersey and his ubiquitous sunny smile on a gray day, Mr. Portman rode his bicycle along a 100-mile route for a cancer-research benefit. He kibitzed with fellow riders, appearing unfazed about being passed over by Mitt Romney.

Along the route, Mr. Portman declined to comment about Mr. Romney's choice of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate. He later issued a statement calling Mr. Ryan "a great choice."

Mr. Portman called the vice presidential candidate "an accomplished public servant and a leading voice on the most pressing issues facing our country."

Many analysts had predicted Mr. Portman would join the ticket because, among other factors, he improved Mr. Romney's chances of winning Ohio. But a member of the Romney team and others close to it said Mr. Ryan was selected because his bold economic proposals promised to shake up the campaign.

"It wasn't about what Rob Portman lacked; it was about what Paul Ryan had to offer and the contrast with our opponent," a Romney campaign representative said. "Governor Romney's bold decision matches the bold leadership Paul Ryan has exhibited."

Kevin DeWine, former Ohio GOP chairman and member of the National Republican Committee, said with Mr. Ryan on the ticket, the campaign will be a debate about "big ideas."

"I don't think this is anything bad about Portman. It's more that Romney and Ryan became very comfortable with each other during the course of the campaign," Mr. DeWine said.

As the vice presidential search dragged on over the past two months, settling on Mr. Ryan, Mr. Portman, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as finalists, the spotlight shone ever brighter on Mr. Portman, raising his profile nationally and in Ohio.

"Rob got as much good out of this as he possibly could have," Mr. DeWine said. "As a result, he is a stronger senator in Washington and he is a stronger senator in Ohio."

An avid kayaker, cross-country skier, and cyclist, Mr. Portman rode the charity race with his 20-year-old son Will and about 10 others wearing "Team Portman" jerseys.

While the senator was stoic, team member Tom Seward was disappointed that Mr. Portman was left off the ticket. He was quick to say, though, that he was glad Mr. Portman still will be serving Ohio.

"He's an amazing person and politician," Mr. Seward said.

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