U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said “no” when NBC News asked him if he’d consider running as Donald J. Trump’s vice-presidential nominee this year.
Does that mean he would refuse to run with Trump if he asks him to do so? Does it mean the Republican will have none of it … ever?
It means only that he intends — at this moment — to seek re-election to the Senate.
How many times have these politicians said “no” only to change their minds when the phone rings? A zillion?
I’m going to flash back for a moment to a conversation my colleagues and I had in Beaumont with the late, great U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen.
It was 1988. The Democratic senator was running for re-election. He visited us at the Beaumont Enterprise to talk about that campaign. The presidential primary campaign was winding down. Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis was pondering a VP pick. Bentsen’s name was being kicked around.
So … I asked him: Would you run for vice president if Dukakis asked?
I don’t recall precisely how Sen. Bentsen answered, but I do recall he said “no,” or words to that effect. He said he was focused only on his re-election campaign against Republican nominee U.S. Rep. Beau Boulter of Amarillo.
About a week later, his phone rang. It was Gov. Dukakis. The governor asked Bentsen to run with him on the Democratic ticket. His “no” turned to “yes.”
My memory of that conversation makes it difficult for me to accept a “no” at face value when the subject of running for vice president comes up.
In this election cycle, though, it strikes me as plausible that saying “no” to a presidential nominee as weird and unpredictable as Donald Trump actually might carry more weight.