Sen. Rob Portman is stoking speculation about a possible presidential bid with a trip to New Hampshire next week, on the heels of two other potential presidential hopefuls who have made the trip to the Granite State.
The Ohio Republican, who was on the shortlist to be Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 presidential election, will headline a New Hampshire Republican Party “business luncheon” on June 14, according to the invitation. Ticket prices range from $250 for an individual or $500 for host level.
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is seen as a presidential hopeful one day herself, is one of the hosts of the luncheon.
Ryan Williams, New Hampshire Republican Party consultant, brushed off the idea that this trip presaged a possible presidential run.
Portman, Williams told The Daily Caller, is heading to the state for an event at his alma mater, Dartmouth College. It is his 35th reunion this year. Williams said the Senator reached out to Ayotte “to let her know he would be in the state that weekend” and “asked if there was anything he could do to help her or other Republicans in New Hampshire.”
Ayotte, according to Williams, suggested he attend the fundraising luncheon.
“For every indication we have he’s simply being helpful to the party and helpful to Republicans in New Hampshire,” Williams told TheDC, saying it was geared toward the 2014 cycle.
Portman is vice chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a role in which he focuses on fundraising for the committee. New Hampshire’s Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen faces re-election in 2014. She has not yet drawn a serious Republican opponent.
“Like he has in past campaigns, Rob’s looking forward to the chance to support the New Hampshire GOP and their fight for smaller government, pro-growth policies and fiscal discipline,” Jeffrey Sadosky, Portman’s Communications Director, told TheDC.
New Hampshire-based Republican political consultant Fergus Cullen cautioned against reading too much into Portman’s visit.
“I think The Onion did a story a couple years ago on the Jones family from Ohio vacationing in NH triggering rumors of a possible presidential candidacy by Uncle Joe,” Cullen told TheDC.
Portman is the third Republican with rumored presidential ambitions to make a trek to the state that holds the first primary in the nation. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal spoke to a small audience in the state last month, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul headlined a dinner for a much larger audience ten days later.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a first term Republican who appears to be mulling a presidential bid, has been invited to headline the fall dinner for the conservative group Cornerstone Action. Cruz has not yet responded to the invitation.