(WASHINGTON) — If Ohio is a battleground, Thursday the first shots were fired in the war for the White House. As Mitt Romney and Obama gave dueling speeches, Ohio’s hometown Republican Senator Rob Portman, who is considered to be on a short list of potential VP picks, pounded the president from Washington, D.C.
“President Barack Obama correctly points out that he inherited this recession,” Portman wrote in an op-ed that appeared Wednesday night on Politico’s website. “But the question is: What did he do with it? His policies, unfortunately, have failed to turn things around.”
Portman called the president out for failing to keep his promise to bring unemployment below six percent, adding that unemployment has been over eight percent for three years.
“We must do better,” Portman wrote in Politco, foreshadowing a line in Romney’s speech Thursday where Romney said of the presidency that he’d like to find “find someone who can do a better job.”
Portman continued to paint the portrait of a failed president during a conference call with reporters when he acknowledged Obama had inherited a tough economy but then squandered his opportunity to fix it.
“The president tried to blame it on everything except his policies,” Portman said according to reporters listening in to the call. “He’s been finding excuses for months as to why the economy is not doing well.”
Later Thursday, Sen. Portman delivered brief remarks at the Faith and Freedom Conference in downtown D.C. Although the speech centered on the way his faith and commitment to family has influenced his life and career decisions, Portman did not miss the opportunity to hit the president on last Friday’s “the private sector is doing fine” slip-up.
“The president gave us a glimpse into the failed philosophy he has chosen last week when he proclaimed that the private sector was doing just fine,” Portman said to the audience. “He needs to get out more.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also considered in the top tier of potential running mates for Romney, spoke after Portman. Other notable politicians in attendance at this year’s Faith and Freedom Conference include Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Deirdre Walsh and Eugene Scott, CNN
Eric Bradner, Shimon Prokupecz and Dan Merica, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN