Union hosts Lincoln-Hayes Banquet

Republicans are due for a turnaround in the 2008 elections if they stick to their “bedrock principles,” a member of President Bush’s cabinet said at a gala dinner for party activists in Bowling Green last Friday.

Rob Portman, the director of the White House office of management and budget, spoke in the Union Ballroom during the Lincoln-Hayes Banquet, a yearly event planned by U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor, R-Ohio.

Portman represented Ohio’s second Congressional district, in the state’s Southwest, in the U.S. House prior to being named a United States Trade Representative in 2005.

He was “optimistic” about the party’s chances, he said, despite losing control of Congress in last year’s elections, as long as its candidates promoted concepts like individualism and small government.

“These ideas make the Republican Party the party of ideas,” Portman said. “We’re chock full of them.”

These ideas include opposing what he said were billions of dollars of tax increases proposed by Democrats – an issue of particular importance for Portman as he is responsible for the president’s yearly budget proposals.

“We’re kind of back to the traditional tax and spend,” he said.

It was concerns about similar less-delicate issues, like taxes, rather than prominent ones like Republicans’ handling of Iraq War, that strongly contributed to Republicans losses in the elections, Portman said.

“Voters were disappointed, especially independent voters … and some Republicans stayed home,” he said. “There was a sense that Republicans weren’t taking care of your tax dollars.”

“Quite frankly, I don’t think we were doing enough” to do so, he said.

Portman also praised the No Child Left Behind act, increased military spending and increased ethanol production, while decrying moves toward nationalized health care.

He called on the attendees – a mix of citizens and state officials, including Bowling Green state Rep. Bob Latta and Sen. Randy Gardner – to help promote these ideals as the presidential race gets into gear, 17 months before election day.

“With your help … we have the opportunity to get back on our feet.”

Portman’s mention of the presidential race was timely as the dinner also featured a straw poll among the more than 200 attendees for the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee – who has yet to formally announce any candidacy – took first, polling 32.5 percent.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, tied for second at 18.1 percent, followed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Gillmor spoke briefly before introducing Portman, criticizing Democrats as the “slowest” and “least productive” congressional majority in recent memory.

Gillmor also “unofficially” announced his candidacy to run for his current job again next year.