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Portman endorses Trump for 2020

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has made an early endorsement of his party’s leader, President Donald Trump, for the 2020 campaign.

In an interview with the Independent Journal Review, Portman said he was on board for the president’s re-election.

“I intended to support the Republican incumbent,” he said Thursday.

Portman originally endorsed then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the 2016 presidential race, but eventually came to back Trump after he won the Republican nomination.

However, Portman withdrew his endorsement in October of that year, following the release of the Access Hollywood video, which features audio of Trump, caught on microphone in a lewd conversation with host Billy Bush, boasting about groping and kissing women.

“I thought it was appropriate to respect the millions of voters across the country who chose Donald Trump as the Republican Party nominee,” Portman said in a statement at the time, stating that he would instead vote for vice presidential nominee Mike Pence. “While I continue to respect those who still support Donald Trump, I can no longer support him. I continue to believe our country cannot afford a Hillary Clinton presidency.”

The Independent Journal Review asked Portman what had changed since 2016.
“Well, he’s the incumbent,” Portman said. “I mean, he’s in office, I work with him every day.

Portman said he was able to work with the White House, despite some disagreements.

“I disagree with him publicly and privately when appropriate,” Portman said. “But I also get a lot done, and I get that done with him. So we work with the White House, and I think that’s important for Ohio.”

On Friday, Trump thanked Portman, as well as U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, for coming out early in support of his 2020 campaign.

“Thank you to Senator Rob Portman and Senator Cory Gardner for the early and warm endorsement,” Trump posted on Twitter. “We will ALL WIN in 2020 together!”

Gardner had declined to support Trump in 2016, calling on his party to replace the nominee after the Access Hollywood tape was released.

The Ohio Democratic Party criticized Portman’s statement.

“Rob Portman has once again revealed where he ultimately stands,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said in a news release on Thursday. “Even as Trump and his inner circle are subject to at least 17 investigations, Portman is choosing to stand by his man nearly two years before the election. He won’t even wait for the Mueller report or to see if a more stable Republican decides to challenge Trump in the GOP primary — Rob Portman is a Trump guy, for once and for all.”

Portman was re-elected to the Senate for a second term in 2016.