So perhaps the 2016 Republican presidential field is not destined, as one might have previously imagined, to expand until it encompasses every current or past elected official with responsibilities exceeding that of dogcatchers. While there is still no front-runner in sight, one “mentioned” proto-candidate, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, has ruled out a presidential campaign and will instead run for re-election. This step may have been motivated by rumors of a conservative primary opponent; better to head that off, Portman may have decided, than to flirt with an unlikely White House bid.
There are two other senators in the ranks of the “mentioned” whose terms end in 2016. One is Marco Rubio, who has said he will choose between presidential and senatorial careers when the time comes. The other is Rand Paul, who is reportedly seeking via legislation or a lawsuit to change a Kentucky law forbidding him to pursue both offices simultaneously (as did Lyndon Johnson as John F. Kennedy’s running-mate in 1960; Joe Lieberman as Al Gore’s running-mate in 2000; and Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running-mate in 2012). It will be interesting to see if Portman’s decision ratchets up the heat on these two pols.
But the most immediate beneficiary may be Ohio Gov. John Kasich, should he decide to run for president. And secondarily, Portman’s withdrawal leaves more “Establishment” space in the field for Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio. These three will be watching each other more closely than ever going forward.