Rob Portman, the Republican senator from Ohio, is an official person of interest for a very important job that’s recently opened up, and so the media continues to dig into his record, his connections, and his talents. The latest such profile is this report from Yahoo News’ Chris Moody, who writes that Portman has been called upon to help various Republicans prepare for debates.
“I don’t know anybody who’s done more debate coaching or surrogate work in debates than Rob Portman,” Rick Lazio, the former New York congressman who ran against Hillary Clinton for Senate in 2000, told Yahoo News. Lazio asked Portman to play his opponent in that race, and he left shocked at how well Portman could transform himself into the former first lady.
“No wig, no dress,” Lazio said, “but otherwise very effective.”
He also helped John McCain in 2008. “He was not just the positions of Barack Obama — he became Barack Obama,” McCain advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin told Moody. “Physical mannerisms, parsing of his voice, everything. He’s obviously the white guy from Cincinnati, but Obama has a particular set of vocal rhythms. Rob got all of that.”
Fine, we’re convinced he can do political impressions (he’s also got a Lieberman and an Edwards in his back pocket) — and Lord knows the show will need to beef those up for the election season — but will Portman be able come up with material like “Lazy Sunday” or “Dick in a Box”? Versatility is important on a sketch show, after all. Until we see more from him on the improv front, we’re not moving him into the top tier of Andy Samberg replacements.