Predicting Next Moves in Plain Dealer-Portman Courtship

The Cleveland Plain Dealership published an op-ed last week asking (implying?) outgoing Senator Rob Portman to reconsider his decision to step down from office. The editorial cited “how ugly the Republican primary is” for the senator’s seat, writing, “Perhaps you see, as we do, in this 2022 Ohio Republican primary contest for your seat, a continuation of this descent into darkness for a once proud party.”

OK, so a single editorial is fine, I guess. Even one who ignores the reality that a Portman administration would not be much different from one led by Josh Mandel or JD Vance, at least from a legislative context. (A reminder that Portman voted with Trump more than 88% of the time.)

But then things got…weird.

After the editorial, Chris Quinn, Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of Content for the Ordinary Merchant and Cleveland.com, published an open letter asking readers to email Portman and ask him to reconsider his retirement. (Portman, for his part, didn’t waver in his decision.)

“We’ve watched in amazement as people we know aren’t stupid stand behind statements they know to be false, statements that contradict things they’ve said in the past, all to win a seat,” Quinn wrote. “Josh Mandel, Jane Timken, Mike Gibbons, JD Vance and Bernie Moreno would have rejected voters’ desire to preserve a president who did not win re-election.”

It is at this point that we would like to remind Ordinary Merchant that if they are so concerned about the state of the current Senate election, and in particular the Republican candidates, there are actually Democrats running to replace Portman that they could also defend, including Tim Ryan and Morgan Harper.

But even focusing on the newspaper’s statement about how that Republican slate allegedly ignored the will of the voters, who overwhelmingly elected Joe Biden in 2020, glosses over the reality that Portman wasn’t exactly the first to walk out the door declaring Trump the loser in the presidential race. The Ohio senator‘s statement on this fact came 20 days after the election, long after all the notable media reported Biden’s victory.

Indeed, the Ordinary MerchantPortman’s repeated pleas to stay seem more about preserving a nice tone than anything else, though the incumbent senator has maintained that, in part, by channeling Mr. Magoo for much of his term (aka “I didn’t see/hear that”). I mean, how many stories exist of Portman dodging a reporter’s tough questions by saying he was late for lunch, or that in fact he didn’t hear that thing he almost certainly did.

Take for example this January 2021 feature in Country of Love Magazine, reminiscent of the 2008 rally for then-presidential candidate John McCain. The event featured radio host Bill Cunningham, who, among other things, made bigoted cracks about Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank while he was on stage. “Willie,” Portman said, taking the microphone, “you’re out of control again.” So what else is new? But we love it. But I have to tell you that Bill Cunningham lending his voice to this campaign is extremely important. When McCain later denounced Cunningham’s comments, Portman objected, telling reporters, “I was backstage, so I didn’t hear it all. [Cunningham] said, which, chef’s kiss.

Either way, it looks like none of this will slow the Ordinary Merchantcurrent role. Here’s how we envision the newspaper’s Portman courtship over the next two weeks.

January 24

the Ordinary Merchant creates a Spotify playlist titled “Don’t ‘Rob’ Us of You (Portman Is the Real Heart of It All)”, featuring songs by Player (“Baby Come Back”), Lisa Loeb (“Stay”) and Elton John (“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”), among others. Of the mix, Portman said, “I heard of that, but I don’t have understood this.”

January 26

Video of a crying man holding a boombox outside Portman’s house appears online and quickly goes viral. He was quickly identified as a notable Ordinary Merchant journalist.

January 28

the Ordinary Merchant The editorial team leaves half a dozen rambling messages on the answering machine in Portman’s office, each growing increasingly desperate and pathetic until an unidentified woman on the call can be heard saying, ” Wait, are we Mikey?” when the sound suddenly stops.

January 29

A prominent sports columnist writes what appears to be a boilerplate article in which he asks a series of questions about Baker Mayfield and the Browns of 2022. Within hours, an eagle-eyed reader cracks a code, however, taking the first letter of each sentence to spell out the plea embedded in the column: “DON’T GO, SENATOR ROB PORTMAN OHIO HEARTS YOU.”

February 1st

the Ordinary Merchant’s editor chokes “PORTMAN 4 EVA” into his chest during a company-wide zoom. He later appears on the porch of the Portman family home, where the senator watches through a peephole as the EIC repeatedly yells at him to “OPEN THE DOOR (BEEP)”.

February 1st

Failing these efforts, the EIC uses his belt to secure himself under the Portman family’s car, unbeknownst to the senator, who then flees with his family to a secluded waterfront retreat. Following a confrontation and a morning scuffle on the riverbank, the senator manages to subdue the reporter, telling him that, despite the press in full court, he would still leave office as planned. “Go ahead,” replied the visibly broken editor. “I just don’t care.” In fact, he did. He really, really did.

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