It’s a difficult time to be a decent person in the United States Senate. That’s one explanation for the surprising announcement from Ohio Senator Rob Portman—former U.S. Trade Representative and OMB director who served 12 years in the House and will end up with 12 in the Senate—that he wouldn’t be running for a third term. The potential line of those to replace him is well over a dozen people long, including J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, whom Sen. Mitch McConnell urged unsuccessfully to run against incumbent Sherrod Brown in 2018.
The only confirmed non-candidate is former Gov. John Kasich and the only unconfirmed frontrunner is Rep. Jim Jordan, the most ambitious of the bunch, who answers “as much as is humanly possible,” to the question of “How Trumpy are you?” Trump’s chief defender during his first impeachment trial, he was rewarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Portman is a fiscal conservative with a genial demeanor that helps the medicine go down. He was known, pre-Trump, to work across the aisle and do the grunt work on tax and financial legislation along with his signature causes, sex trafficking and the opioid epidemic. Why with an excellent chance of winning a third term—he won in 2016 by 21 points to Trump’s 8—would he up and retire?