Ohio voters are no strangers to nasty, high-spending U.S. Senate races. In the 1974 Democratic primary, appointed incumbent Howard Metzenbaum accused John Glenn, a career Marine, of never holding a real job. The charge backfired; Glenn won.
George Voinvoich, in an unsuccessful 1988 effort to unseat Metzenbaum (who won a Senate seat in 1976), accused the Democrat of being soft on child pornographers.
Glenn rescued Metzenbaum, calling the charge “the lowest gutter politics I’ve seen in a long time.”
And in a failed effort to unseat Glenn in 1992, Mike DeWine ran an ad that parodied the Energizer bunny (the rabbit dressed as an astronaut). The ad said Glenn kept “owing and owing and owing” because he had not paid his presidential campaign debt.
Glenn returned fire. “People died wearing that uniform, including Ohio’s Judy Resnik,” he said. “And those who paid the price deserve better than to see that uniform turned into a cartoon so you can try to win an election.”
At the rate he’s going, Republican U.S. Senate candidate and state treasurer Josh Mandel is on his way to reach new lows, quite an accomplishment in Ohio.
Mandel, endorsed this week by Sen. John McCain and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during Ohio campaign stops, has about $5 million on hand. His first television ad went up last night, a biographical piece. “America is broken and needs new leaders” the ads says. “And this Marine is ready to answer the call.”
And charge toward what objectives? Earlier in the campaign, the Marine Corps veteran’s spokesman said that Mandel felt no obligation to share his views of legislation before the U.S. Senate for sanctions on China for manipulating its currency.
“For the next year, we’re not going to pretend like he’s there [in Washington] and voting on every bill that’s introduced or that’s on the floor,” said spokesman Joe Aquilino.
What’s worse is that Mandel will say anything about his opponent, Sen. Sherrod Brown. Brown has a long record, going back to 1974, as a member of the U.S. House, Ohio secretary of state and Ohio House member, but Mandel makes stuff up, anyway — burned three times by PolitiFact Ohio, a partnership of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and PolitiFact.com, a Pulitzer Prize-winning website of the Tampa Bay Times.
Brown’s signature themes are trade issues (he promoted the bill on China’s currency), so it was a surprise when Mandel attacked Brown for being “one of the main D.C. politicians responsible for Ohio jobs moving to China.” The charge got a “Pants on Fire” rating from PolitiFact.
Asked to identify a single job leaving Ohio that could be linked to a vote by Brown in the U.S. Senate, Mandel said, “If that’s the level of specificity you’re looking for, you’re the reporters — you do the grunt work.” Mandel vowed to repeat the false charge “again and again.”
Mandel, 34, a former Lyndhurst City Council member who served two terms in the Ohio House before running for state treasurer in 2010, might be forgiven for hyping nine years of experience in government.
What’s truly stunning is the extent to which the Republicans’ boy wonder is willing to go to manufacture a campaign out of thin air. Mandel will be backed by millions in political contributions and support from independent groups that can, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, raise and spend as much as they want on his behalf.
Brown, 59, the former boy wonder among Ohio Democrats, has about $6 million on hand and, averaging recent polls, about an 8 percentage point lead. He is a tough, resourceful campaigner who is already going after Mandel’s record in the state treasurer’s office, the duties purely administrative. There, Mandel has ducked all but one meeting of the Board of Deposit, which he is supposed the chair, and hired political cronies (after a campaign that blasted his Democratic opponent, Kevin Boyce, for doing the same thing).
How low will Mandel go? In a campaign ad against Boyce, Mandel implied Boyce was not only corrupt, but consorted with Muslims. The ad also created the impression that Boyce, a Christian, is Muslim and connected to terrorists.
Brown has his weaknesses, particularly a tendency to demagogue trade issues. As a liberal, he’s scary to conservatives. What’s scary about Mandel is that he could arrive in the U.S. Senate to confront tough issues after a campaign of vacuous platitudes and a breathtakingly short resume, having done so in a way that would make past campaigns seem quaint by comparison.
Hoffman is a Beacon Journal editorial writer. He can be reached at 330-996-3740 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.