Magazine April 16, 2012, Issue

Working-Class Wonk

Rob Portman (Darren Gygi)
Ohio senator Rob Portman has both popular and elite appeal

Youngstown, Ohio

Mitt Romney has left the building and the town-hall meeting has ended, but Rob Portman, Ohio’s rail-thin freshman senator, paces across the factory floor to shake hands with the lingering crowd. He spends 20 minutes with the metalworkers, listening to their stories. He lightly grips his hands at his waist; his salt-and-pepper hair is slightly mussed. His responses are crisp, calm, and full of numbers. In that respect, he echoes Romney, the potential Republican presidential nominee.

But behind the mannerly persona, Portman, like Romney, is a shrewd operator. Unlike Romney, he is a seasoned Washington player — and an influential

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