Rob Portman endorses Donald Trump

Rob Portman (WSYX/WTTE)

Senator Rob Portman endorsed Donald Trump, the Republican Party's de facto presidential nominee during a campaign stop Monday.

The senator is up for re-election this fall and previously supported Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Portman's race against former Governor Ted Strickland is expected to be one of the tightest Senate races in the country. Some Republicans have decided to run away from Trump but Portman is running along side of him.

"I had hoped John (Kasich) would be the nominee but I had said from the start, for the last year, I intend to support the Republican nominee," Portman said at a warehouse in East Columbus. "That's Donald Trump now."

Portman made the announcement during an event where he was endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business, a small business organization.

Portman said Trump was bringing new people into the Republican primary.

"I got over 82 percent of the vote and a lot of those were Trump supporters," he said. "It's hard to predict because just about everyone's predictions have been wrong about this election cycle, but I think it could be helpful to bring new people in to the Republican Party."

Longtime Republican strategist Bob Clegg said the endorsement isn't a surprise.

"Even if you didn't (endorse him), you'd be accused of doing it anyways," Clegg said. "Why bother? Just go ahead and endorse him."

Some pundits have said Trump at the top of the ticket could hurt Republicans down the ballot -- like Portman.

"While he says he's endorsing the Republican nominee Donald Trump, he also has to stress he is his own man and he has his own beliefs," Clegg said.

That risk could bring some reward though.

"It might be to Senator Portman's advantage to get those kinds of voters that are going to come out this fall," he said. "They're coming out for Donald Trump."

Portman said he believes the next president will work more with Congress.

"Whoever gets elected would be better but specifically Donald Trump has said the right things there," Portman said. "He has said he wants to work with Congress to actually achieve results."

Portman has said for months the next president should fill the open seat in the Supreme Court. Now many conservatives are calling for the Senate to approve President Obama's pick, Merrick Garland. They fear a possible Hillary Clinton administration would nominate someone more liberal.

Portman said he wants to wait and see what happens in November.

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