WASHINGTON — Two men frequently mentioned as possible running mates for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney gave back-to-back speeches at a conference here on Thursday, giving conservatives a glimpse of two very different styles Romney can go with in choosing his vice presidential candidate.
During remarks at a luncheon of the Faith and Freedom Conference, the crowd respectfully clapped for Ohio Sen. Rob Portman as he discussed the experience he has had in government and politics.
But the crowd’s enthusiasm was much louder when Florida Sen. Marco Rubio took the stage and threw out crowd-pleasing one-liners.
Speaking to reporters after his speech, Portman seemed to reference talk about how un-exciting, yet nice, he is when asked if he’s being vetted by Romney’s campaign.
“I hate to be boring,” he said, refusing to discuss the vetting process. “I just don’t talk about that.”
Portman has a long history of being in Washington: he was a congressman, the U.S. Trade Representative and Director of the Office of Management and Budget. “A lot times, the honest truth is, I can’t hold a job,” he said to laughs from the crowd.
While he may not have the most charisma, Portman showed he’s capable of being on message for Romney.
Referencing President Barack Obama’s remarks that the private sector is doing “fine,” Portman responded: “He needs to get out more.”
Rubio, while greener in terms of Washington experience, was unquestionably more charismatic in his speech.
He had the crowd going wild when he said America should have a “system of economics where anyone from anywhere can accomplish anything,” and when he said it shouldn’t matter “whether your parents came on the Mayflower or on a flight from Havana.”
“What matters is not that,” he said. “What matters is do you have a good idea. Because if you have a good idea and you’re willing to work hard, you have a God-given right to pursue that idea.”
Unlike Portman — who seemed to enjoy answering questions from the press until an aide dragged him away — Rubio was guarded, refusing to take any questions after his speech.
Asked by The Daily Caller about being vetted by Romney, Rubio — signing books — smiled and walked away.