The Republican challengers to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown will have to elevate the tone of their campaigns considerably before Election Day if they expect voters to take them seriously.
Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, Miss Kaptur's Republican opponent in Ohio's 9th U.S. House District, posted an online video that preposterously links the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide to government-established "gun control." As a result, the video asserts, the victims of both state-sponsored exterminations were "unable to defend themselves." Mr. Wurzelbacher subsequently denied that the video's allusion to "six million Jews and seven million others" was a Holocaust reference.
The candidate called critics of his video "a lot of whiners" who "are probably serving a political agenda." But a number of nonpartisan observers responded to the video by accusing him of trivializing and exploiting both genocides for political gain.
Gun rights are a legitimate, if hardly central, issue in the 9th District campaign. Yet Mr. Wurzelbacher's suggestion that regulation of individual firearms ownership is an inevitable precursor to disarmament of citizens -- and mass murder by government -- virtually precludes any sensible debate of Second Amendment freedoms.
And in any event, 9th District voters surely are more interested in hearing the candidates discuss such things as the economy and job creation. Mr. Wurzelbacher's positions on both issues differentiate him clearly from Miss Kaptur; he owes it to voters to emphasize them.
In Ohio's Senate race, Republican nominee Josh Mandel appears to be waging his campaign to respond to the question: How low can you go?
In a talk-radio appearance last week, Mr. Mandel called Senator Brown "a real hypocrite" for his support of the Violence Against Women Act. This was a craven reference to Mr. Brown's 1986 divorce, which included allegations by his ex-wife that he had "struck and bullied" her.
Mr. Mandel forgot to mention that while Mr. Brown's former wife conceded the divorce proceedings included "unfriendly words," she supports the senator's re-election and sponsored a fund-raiser for him last week. As far back as 20 years ago, she assailed a political opponent who tried to use the divorce case as an issue against Mr. Brown.
The Blade endorsed Mr. Mandel in his successful race for state treasurer two years ago. But we condemned his sleazy campaign ad that used Muslim-bashing and irrelevant references to terrorism to discredit his opponent, incumbent Democrat (and Christian) Kevin Boyce.
It now appears that disgrace was just Mr. Mandel's warm-up act for this year's smear campaign against Senator Brown -- even as the challenger routinely refuses to respond to valid questions about real campaign issues.
Politics ain't beanbag, as Mr. Dooley observed long ago. Voters expect candidates to attack their opponents' records and, it's to be hoped, to explain how they would do better. Below-the-belt personal attacks and dubious historical revisionism are other matters entirely.
Above all, voters should not be forced to wonder whether there is absolutely nothing a candidate will not say or do -- at whatever cost -- to win an election.