Strip away misleading rhetoric about body armor for the troops, and Ohio's race for the U.S. Senate boils down to this: The incumbent, Republican Mike DeWine, has been a loyal vote in Washington for President Bush and a host of failed and misguided foreign and domestic policies for the past six years.
Getting the country back on the right track won't be easy, but change has to start in the halls of Congress, which is why we endorse Democrat Sherrod Brown to replace Mr. DeWine in the Senate.
Mr. Brown, a seven-term House member, has the experience, intelligence, and tenacity necessary to get things done in Washington, and his positions on the major issues - tax cuts, the war in Iraq, and trade - are in most cases diametrically opposed to those of the incumbent.
Moreover, he has not succumbed to the insiderism that grips veteran officials who, like Mr. DeWine, forget they're supposed to be working for the people rather than advancing special interests.
In addition, Mr. Brown is anything but a stranger to the broader public, having served as Ohio secretary of state from 1983 to 1991 and before that eight years in the General Assembly. A Mansfield native and a graduate of Yale University, he now lives in Avon and represents the 13th congressional district, which extends from the Lorain area southeast below Cleveland into Summit County.
He also is the first truly competitive opponent to face Mr. DeWine, who easily dispatched storefront lawyer Joel Hyatt in 1994 and the overmatched Ted Celeste in 2000.
The fact that this race is a competitive one is testament to the remarkable change this year in Ohio's political landscape, dominated for the past 16 years by Mr. DeWine and his fellow Republicans. Needless to say, one-party rule has been stultifying for both the state and nation, and voters have an opportunity on Nov. 7 to change that.
On the major issues of this election, the contrast between the candidates is striking.
Mr. DeWine supported every one of Mr. Bush's tax cuts, even though they were tilted heavily in favor of the rich. Mr. Brown opposed the policy, not because tax cuts were involved but because he wanted to do more for the neglected middle class.
On Iraq, Mr. DeWine has supported the Bush Administration virtually chapter and verse. His membership on the Senate Intelligence Committee should have given him reason to doubt the President's claim of imminent danger, but even today he still clings to the political fiction that "everybody" believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
On trade, Mr. DeWine has been a champion of global agreements that have resulted in the overseas outsourcing of American workers' jobs and the decline of domestic manufacturing.
While we do not believe global forces can, or should be, entirely reversed, Mr. Brown promises to be a countervailing voice in doing all that can be done to retain jobs, particularly in the kind of small manufacturing shops that often are ignored by government policy.
Most of all, Mr. Brown would provide vital oversight and persistent questioning of Bush Administration policies that has been nonexistent under the Republican regime in Washington.
It's too bad that this campaign has devolved into an angry exchange of TV spots about funding of body armor for U.S. troops overseas. Both candidates want to protect the troops, although Mr. Brown correctly points out that Mr. DeWine supported the administration's rush to send troops into combat even though the military services lacked sufficient armor both for personnel and their Humvees.
We have little confidence that Mr. DeWine would do anything to alter these and other misguided policies of an essentially rudderless administration.
Ohio needs an experienced and thoughtful agent of change in Washington and we believe voters will get one if they elect Sherrod Brown to the U.S. Senate.