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ABC "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" - Transcript


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TAPPER: "That's how it's going all around America." Now, Senator, this has been a weak economic recovery without question, but it is a recovery. And unemployment is going down, just as a factual matter. Why would Congressman Ryan, in defiance of facts, suggest otherwise?

PORTMAN: You know, I think what he was saying is the truth, which is unemployment's higher today than it was when the president took office. And, you know, unfortunately, in the meantime, we've created net zero jobs, Jake. This is the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression.

So I think he's right. You know, look, we all are happy to see some improvement in the economy, but the fact is the economy's weaker this year than it was last year. It was weaker last year than it was the year before. We're not heading in the right direction.

TAPPER: Governor Romney's been increasingly criticizing the Obama administration for its reaction to and how it dealt with the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and saying that the attacks are a campaign issue, because, quote, "This is the first time in 33 years that a United States ambassador has been assassinated," in Governor Romney's words, but Ambassador Stevens' father this morning told Bloomberg News that, quote, "It would be really abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue."

Does the fact that the ambassador's father doesn't want this to be a campaign issue cause you any concern about Governor Romney bringing it up on the stump?

PORTMAN: Well, he didn't say it was a campaign issue. He said it was an issue.


I mean, it's something the American people are really concerned about, Jake. And, look, you've been on top of this. I've seen some of the tough questions you've been asking the White House on it. Folks want to know two things. Why wasn't the security there? And why did the administration try so hard to create, you know, the wrong image as to what happened?

You know, they went out of their play to try to leave the impression this was because of some video. It wasn't. It was a premeditated terrorist attack that terrible night in Benghazi, that tragic occurrence where the lost the ambassador and three other brave Americans, need to be explained to the American people. And I think folks deserve an explanation.

TAPPER: In Ohio especially, Governor Romney has been making a big issue about cracking down on China and China's cheating. There is this other issue, though, that Governor Romney still gets a cut of the profits from Bain Capital's investments in Chinese companies and in companies that are currently offshoring U.S. jobs to China. Is there not a disconnect between Governor Romney says he wants to do with China and how he is continuing to profit off of those very problems that he criticizes?

PORTMAN: Yeah, Jake, no, I don't think there's any disconnect at all. First of all, all this stuff's in a blind trust. Second, I think a lot of Americans are invested in something that has international investments, including, I'm sure, President Obama and his pension and other things.

So that's not the issue. The issue is, what are we going to do about trade? One, we need to open more markets. And as you know, I'm the former U.S. trade rep, and I think it's unbelievable that the United States has sat on the sidelines for the past four years, hasn't negotiated a single trade opening agreement. While the rest of the world continues to negotiate them -- there have been 40 or 50 of them negotiated -- taking away our market share from our workers, our farmers, our service providers -- and at the same time, we haven't been tough enough on some countries that haven't been playing by the rules, and one in China.

And as you know, I'm the sponsor of the currency legislation in Congress, because we think that they do manipulate their currency, and that ought to be addressed. It's a trade issue. It affects the cost of their exports to us. They're lower as a result of it. And it makes it more expensive for us to send stuff to them.

So these are legitimate issues in Ohio. And I think Governor Romney ought to keep raising them.

TAPPER: We only have one more minute left, so I'm going to turn to Ohio. Let's look at the latest poll from after the first debate. It shows President Obama in the lead in Ohio still, 51 percent to Romney's 45 percent. That's from after the first presidential debate.

Does Governor Romney have a path to the presidency without Ohio? I know you're going to say that he's going to win Ohio, but can he win the presidency without it?

PORTMAN: Look, he can probably win the presidency without Ohio, but I wouldn't want to take the risk. No Republican has. And we're doing great in Ohio. If you look at the average of all the polls, it's about dead-even in Ohio right now. And importantly, the momentum's on our side. It's been terrific.

I've been to a half-dozen rallies in Ohio in the last week alone. I've never seen this kind of energy and enthusiasm on the ground. We've already made three times more phone calls through our volunteers this year than 2008. We've knocked on 25 times more doors than we did in all of 2008. So something's going on, on the ground in Ohio. It's turning our way. And I think that's why you're going to see the president continue to attack, not focus on the substance of the issues that people care about, but instead continue to get attacked because things are not going their way right now.

TAPPER: Senator Portman, thanks so much for joining us this morning. We really appreciate your time.

PORTMAN: Thank you, Jake.


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