At first, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney was the lone voice willing to say that Donald Trump’s extortion of the Ukrainian president was “troubling,” and eventually call Trump’s solicitation of help from China “wrong and appalling.” Romney was then joined by more tepid comments from Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse and then Maine Sen. Susan Collins.
But on Monday, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman added his name to the list of careful Republican dissenters.
“The president should not have raised the Biden issue on that call, period. It’s not appropriate for a president to engage a foreign government in an investigation of a political opponent,” Portman said after attending the 4th Annual Ohio Defense Forum, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Portman added, however, that he didn’t see Trump’s actions as “impeachable” and said Democrats had “rushed” to impeachment without all the facts.
These aren’t exactly profiles in courage on the part of the Republicans because their statements have all been weakened in some respect, whether it’s through Sasse’s predictable “both sides” prism or by stopping short of calling for impeachment.
Still, every Republican voice of dissent against Trump is worth noting because actual strength and resolve can come from numbers. No one wants to be the sole person edging out on the branch that their colleagues might then cut off. But every time a new GOP senator or representative voices concern over Trump, isolating that cohort becomes a little harder and less manageable.
Portman, in particular, is interesting because he is a relatively careful politician. As journalist Peter Hamby notes, Portman typically does a lot of planning and research and polling before rolling out a policy or, in this case, a controversial position. So in his case, it’s likely that nothing was left to chance, including when and where he decided to make his remarks—back home in Ohio in this case, rather than in Washington.