WASHINGTON — Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a vice chairmanof theSenate GOP political operation,said Thursday he expectedhis organization will not be helpingIllinois GOP Senate nomineeJim Oberweis because other races — with candidates who have a better chance of winning — have a priority. While he had nothing much to sayabout Oberweis, he gushed over Illinois GOP governor nominee Bruce Rauner, who he knows from their Dartmouth days.
Indeed, Portman has made two contributions to Rauner’s campaign— $1,000 in July, 2013 and $500 last March. Rauner graduated Dartmouth in 1978; Portman in 1979. He said he and Raunerhave talked about his race. As for Oberweis, “I just don’t know him personally.”
Oberweis is facing Sen. Dick Durbin D-Ill., and Portman was asked if the National Republican Senatorial Committee would help Oberweis. So far the NRSC has declined to pump any resources into Illinois. Portman declined to make any pledge to assist,citing other states that have come into play such asMinnesota andOregon.
Portman said,”I don’t know what the NRSC decision will be there. I have been told that that (Illinois) race has closed somewhat. It’s a single-digit race based on some polling, but I just don’t know enough about it.”
Press about what Oberweis could expect from the NRSC Portman said,“I don’t know.”I mean, frankly the playing field is already very broad,” a reference to the seats where the NRSC gauges they have realistic pick-up potential.”I don’t think people would have been expected to be talking about Minnesota and New Hampshire and Virginia and Oregon, and we are, so the playing field is already quite broad.”
Asked to amplify his comments about the Illinois Senate race, Portman switched over to discussing the far more heated battle between Gov. Pat Quinn and Rauner.
“I’ll talk more about Bruce Rauner because he was a classmate of mine,” Portman said. “…I knew him and I am very high on him.” He is “breathing new life into the Republican Party of Illinois.”
Portman is the financevice chairman — that is fundraising chief — of the National Republican Senatorial Committee andmade his comments about Oberweis and Rauner before and during a breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Republicans need to win six seats in November to secure control of the Senate.
Jennifer Duffy, aSenior Editor for The Cook Political Report, where she tracksSenate and Governors races, said she handicaps the race as safe for Durbin.
“I have it solid right now,” she said, referring to her prediction that Durbin will win. Oberweis may gain some what withthe tough “environment” in Illinois forDemocrats because Quinn is behind but not enough to win.