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U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, speaks to the New Hampshire Union Leader Editorial staff, on Tuesday in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Ohio's Rob Portman: GOP can win back Senate

MANCHESTER — Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican considered among possible 2016 presidential hopefuls, said the GOP is positioned to win majority control of the Senate this fall with a message of restoring the country’s economic promise.

Republicans need to pick up six seats to win majority control of the U.S. Senate, and Portman’s visit to New Hampshire on Tuesday included support for a friend and former colleague, Senate Republican hopeful Scott Brown.

The mid-term elections hinge on the economy and a “deficit in leadership,” Portman said in an interview.

He promoted “Jobs for America,” a pro-growth plan that proposes reforming the tax code to help middle class Americans and to make the country more competitive globally. Part of that plan is support for the Keystone XL pipeline, which he said would be one of the bills sent to President Obama within the first 100 days, should the GOP capture Senate majority control.

“We have not taken the regulatory yoke off of businesses,” Portman said.

Lowering business and individual tax rates is a key part of the “Jobs for America” plan. It would also serve as an incentive for major U.S. companies to grow and stay in America, he said. He was referring to the news of Burger King moving to Canada to lower its corporate taxes.

The federal government should not punish a company for so-called “inversion,” but should fix the tax code instead, Portman said.

“I’m feeling so strongly that we’re letting down the country,” he said.

Portman cited a recent poll that said nearly eight out of 10 Americans now believe the next generation will not have the same opportunities. The economic uncertainty and anxiety is real with depressed wages and rising costs, and Republicans need to do a better job of communicating the problems and the solutions, he said.

“The Republican brand is in worse shape than the Democratic brand,” Portman said. “I think we’re going to win the majority this year, in spite of ourselves.” “But 2016 is a different ballgame,” he added. “It’s going to be hard for us to win a national election unless we begin to communicate more more clearly that we have an alternative. We’re not the party of no, we’re the party of ideas, and the party of jobs and the party of reform.”

The Affordable Care Act, and its low poll approval rating in the Granite State, will be the decisive issue at the end of the day on Nov. 4 in New Hampshire, Portman said.

Brown has campaigned on that issue, and he calls U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., one of the deciding votes on “Obamacare.”

In New Hampshire, Portman focused on Brown, not Shaheen. He said Brown was an “independent voice” when he represented Massachusetts in the Senate, and that he would be the same representing New Hampshire.“He’s not a ‘no’ guy,” Portman said. “He’s an it-can-be-better guy.”

Portman spoke Tuesday morning at “Politics & Eggs,” a partnership between The New England Council and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, and he autographed some of those wooden eggs handed out to guest speakers and attendees as keepsakes. The event is a must stop for presidential candidates. In the interview, Portman brushed aside talk of a run for the White House.

“I’m focused on 2014,” he said. “My heart and soul is on that. We’ll see after the election.”

(Story updated to clarify that "Politics & Eggs" is a partnership between The New England Council and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.)

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