Op-Ed: Why conservatives are dumping Portman
Tuesday Sept 2nd, the Cincinnati Enquirer published an Op-Ed letter written by pro-life / pro-family activist Lori Viars. Ms. Viars clearly explains the concerns, reasoning, and expectations of Values Voters.
Opinion: Why conservatives are dumping Portman
(Photo: The Enquirer/Glenn Hartong )
Lebanon resident Lori Viars serves on the central and executive committees of the Warren County Republican Party, is vice president of Warren County Right To Life and sits on the board of the Conservative Republican Leadership Committee.
Republican Sen. Rob Portman clearly has some of the gifts and abilities needed to run for president, but his 2013 flip-flop on same-sex marriage rules him out as a candidate for many conservatives.
The Terrace Park resident appears genuinely surprised by the number of former supporters who are now refusing to vote for him: “But I’m with you 99 percent,” he complained to me at the 2013 Lincoln Dinner in Warren County. I explained to Portman – whom Citizens for Community Values now lists as an “unacceptable candidate” – that the marriage issue is more than 1 percent of the pie for social conservatives. Cross family-oriented voters like me on abortion or marriage, and it’s a deal-breaker.
It’s not just hard-core conservative Republicans who oppose homosexual marriage. Across the nation, there have been about 36 statewide votes on the issue. In all but four or five of these contests, citizens have voted to ban gay marriage – usually by wide margins. Most states that have legalized same-sex marriage have had the issue decided by judges, and in some cases state legislators. When the voters have had a choice, however, they have overwhelmingly voted against same-sex unions.
Portman claims that his newfound support for homosexual marriage is due to his son coming out as gay. Is it possible, though, that Portman is using this as a convenient excuse? About 18 years ago, I had a conversation with then-U.S. Rep. Portman about the federal Defense of Marriage Act. I had just finished walking with Team Portman in the sweltering Madeira parade when I asked, “Congressman, can we count on your vote for DOMA?” I thought he’d give me a quick yes and that I’d be on my way in search of air conditioning. But Portman would not answer my question. I pressed him, and again he deflected. On my third (more emphatic) try, he got angry with me. He clearly did not want to take a position on DOMA. At the time, his son would have been in preschool.
Whatever his reason, Portman’s flip-flop puts his presidential ambition at a disadvantage. His loss of trust among conservative groups and leaders could even sink his chances of re-election to the Senate.
Rather than rallying a key portion of his base, he is banking on conservatives “not having anywhere else to go” in the general election. And yes, some conservatives would hold their noses and vote for Portman as the lesser of two evils in November. Nevertheless, a sizeable number could walk – toward a viable primary challenger the preceding May, or to a third party “protest candidate” who peels off just enough votes to cost him the general. Or they may not vote at all on a race without a worthy candidate.
Marriage, however, is not the only issue simmering among former Portman supporters. The senator has been roundly criticized over his positions on the Thad Cochran race-baiting scandal, Common Core, immigration, crony capitalism, the Export-Import Bank, the Brent Spence Bridge replacement, and the loss of DHL and the uranium enrichment plant. Even pro-life leaders seem less than impressed by Portman’s new interest in pro-life legislation, which conspicuously started just after the outcry over his reversal on marriage.
Both social and fiscal conservatives are hungry for leaders who, as President Ronald Reagan said, paint in bold colors, not pale pastels. Portman has chosen to align himself against the Republican national platform and 61.7 percent of Ohio voters. In a purple state, Portman is painting not in red or blue but in pale hues – in this case, lavender.