Rob Portman in 2016?

"... in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength ..." - The Book of Common Prayer

I said here Monday that Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) conveyed a sense of maturity and quiet confidence that others may lack. But he is no nostalgico, those aging conservatives who have been holding their breath since Calvin Coolidge, singing the old songs and praying together that it will soon all just go away. Portman could potentially be the man of the times as America rises into the century.

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Ohioans are used to being called to American governance. Ohio is called “the Cradle of Presidents” because from the end of the Colonial period to the rise of war in Europe, a rash of presidents came from Ohio, bringing stability to the fledgling heartland. If Portman were to be elected, he would be the ninth president from Ohio. And Stephanie Slade, a contributor to U.S. News and World Report, says he is a viable dark horse candidate for 2016.

“A recent poll from the Washington Post and ABC News pitted Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan against former governor of Florida Jeb Bush, current governor of New Jersey Chris Christie and Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio of Texas, Kentucky and Florida, respectively,” she writes. “An even more recent poll from CNN and ORC added 2012 hopefuls Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee to the mix. Not-so-noticeably absent from these lineups was Portman, the current junior senator from Ohio.”

But should Portman enter the race, he strikes Slade as a formidable candidate:

“Portman’s resume is at least as impressive as anyone else considering a run. A small-business owner back home in Lebanon, Ohio, he has also served as U.S. Trade Representative and Director of the Office of Management and Budget. He’s a deficit hawk — no small thing, considering that voters are increasingly naming the debt and spending as a top priority — and because he was working in the executive branch at the time, he did not have to take votes in favor of a number of much-maligned-on-the-right bailout and stimulus bills.”

I’d made the case here, and wherever anyone would listen, that there have been three leadership phases in America beyond the Colonial period. First was Andrew Jackson’s rural revolt against the Eastern establishment. Then when the Industrial Revolution brought capital back East, leadership eventually followed in two phases: the WASP period much maligned today in sociology class, followed by what political analyst Larry Sabato calls “The Kennedy Half Century.” Eastern governance was back, but this time dominated by the Euro-immigrant groups like my own which came to the Northeast to work in WASP factories and shops.

With the rise of the Tea Party we see again a Jacksonian-like push against the establishment based in the East; this time a conservative heartland is pushing against governance by Washington and New York. And this time capital rises in the middle of the country as well. What conservative today does not rail against Washington and “the establishment”?

In fact, some very good ideas have awakened with the Tea Party, involving states rights, sound money and constitutional government; some of former Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) thinking as well as businessman Lew Lehrman’s; Texas Gov. Rick Perry's (R) ideas on state competition and integrity; and even on regionalization, which GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggested with his phrase “one size does not fit all.”

But these new principles will not be implemented by Tea Party pouters and firebrands who fill the airwaves. To rise to an actual doable level of governance, it will require maturity and quiet confidence and a statesman like Rob Portman.

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