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Published: Thursday, 11/8/2012

Negative ads color Ohio race between Brown, Mandel for U.S. Senate

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — “Karl Rove had a bad night,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said Wednesday, just hours after fending off a $40 million onslaught of ads from out-of-state entities intent on taking him out.

“Not to egg him on for six years later, but Karl Rove doesn’t know Ohio as well as he thinks he does,” Mr. Brown said. “I think Rove … thinks of Ohio as one of his specialties, one of his favorite places to do politics. … I think his brand of politics was pretty discredited. That doesn’t mean the door’s shut and it’ll never happen again, it just means it was pretty well discredited in Ohio last night.”

Mr. Rove was an architect of Crossroads America, the largely anonymous group behind ads in a handful of U.S. Senate races aimed at helping Republicans add control of the upper chamber to their control of the U.S. House.

In Ohio, the goal was to replace the unabashedly liberal Democratic incumbent with Republican Josh Mandel, who’d won his first statewide race two years earlier for Ohio treasurer.

The final unofficial count gave Mr. Brown 50 percent of the vote to Mr. Mandel’s 45 percent; independent Scott Rupert got 5 percent.

Ads from both sides were highly negative, and the personal animosity between the two candidates was on public display during their debates, characterized at one point with each calling the other a liar.

Mr. Mandel called the senator Tuesday night once the results were known.

“He just called and said, ‘Congratulations,’ ” Mr. Brown said. “I said ‘Thank you, and I wish you and your wife well.’ It was a pretty short conversation. It was not unfriendly, but it was to the point.”

This election marked the first election defeat for Mr. Mandel, who was a state representative and Lyndhurst city councilman before being elected treasurer in 2010.

“Voters made their decision based on a variety of issues,” he said. “I have the utmost respect for voters of this state. This isn’t the first time I’ve been knocked on my butt. It won’t be my last time. I was raised by my family and as a Marine to get up, straighten up, dust yourself off, and move forward.”

Mr. Brown said he hopes his experience this year will embolden his colleagues in Washington to pursue public disclosure of those financing campaigns.

“The increased negativity made it much more competitive that it otherwise would be,” said John Green, director of the University of Akron’s Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. “An incumbent senator rarely faces the level of criticism that Senator Brown faced, just because of the vast amount of money that could be spent.”

The taxpayer bailout of the auto industry affecting Chrysler and General Motors was critical to Mr. Brown’s and President Obama’s victories. That was particularly true, Mr. Brown said, when the Mitt Romney campaign aired ads that suggested that Jeep jobs in Toledo could be moved to China at a time when the plant was planning to bring 1,100 new workers on board.

“They badly misfired thinking that Ohioans would be so gullible and stupid, and it was insulting to auto workers but it was insulting to the waitress who walks across the street from the Jeep plant,” he said. “It was insulting to all Ohioans who knew that we had to do the auto rescue.”

Mr. Mandel was late in taking a firm position against the auto bailout, but eventually made it part of his case as described Mr. Brown as the “bailout senator.”

“I don’t think there was any one special issue that made that race,” Mr. Mandel said. “It was definitely an issue voters were passionate about.”

When asked whether, in hindsight, it was a mistake to take that position, he said, “I never take a public policy position based on political expedience.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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