From staff and wire reports

TAMPA, FLA.: Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio on Wednesday praised Mitt Romney’s success in the private sector and drew applause at the Republican National Convention when he compared President Barack Obama as having “never even worked in a business.”

Portman poked fun at himself after a summer in which his name was repeatedly mentioned as a potential running mate for the former Massachusetts governor.

“They say I was on Governor Romney’s short list of vice presidential candidates,” Portman said. “Apparently, it wasn’t short enough.”

But he went on to call vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin a close friend of his and “a terrific partner” for Romney.

Portman, who served as the U.S. trade representative and White House budget director in George W. Bush’s administration, said Obama hasn’t done anything about China’s unfair trade practices because he needs China to keep buying the bonds that finance the growing U.S. deficit.

He said the United States is as beholden to China for buying bonds as it is to the Middle East for oil. Portman said that will end if Romney is elected.

China holds nearly $1.2 trillion in U.S. debt. Romney has accused China of manipulating its currency and blocking access to its markets.

“We need to knock down these trade barriers abroad,” Portman said, “but we also need to knock down the self-imposed barriers to success right here at home.”

Portman peered into his own upbringing to tell a tale that was “not of government telling us what to do — but of free men and free women willing to work hard and take a risk to build something of value for themselves, their families and their community.”

“When I was a kid, my dad left his job as a salesman and started his own business selling forklift trucks. My mom was the bookkeeper. He had to borrow money from her uncle because the bank wouldn’t give him a loan. He lost money for the first few years, but he never lost his dream.

And by the time he retired and my brother took over, the business had 200 employees — supporting 200 families in Southwest Ohio.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.