PoliticsOhio: Senate Fight Intensifies As Election Nears

Sep 28, 2012

Emily McCord speaks to Karen Kasler from the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau to discuss the state of the race between Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown and Republican Challenger Josh Mandel. Kasler reports that this nationally watched contest has generated national attention and the campaigns have become increasingly negative.

McCord: Welcome to PoliticsOhio I'm Emily McCord.

M: Lots of attention is being paid to the Presidential race here in Ohio, but here in this state we also have one of the most contentious Senate races as well. Here to talk to me about the race between Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel is Karen Kasler with our Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau, thanks for being here.

Kasler: Great to be with you.

M: Let’s step back for a moment and look at the big picture. Right now how does this Senate race play into this idea as one of the Senate races to watch? 

"this is a very very nasty campaign, these are two combatants who may or may not have expected to be going at each other quite as much as they are"

K: Well I think what has happened here is that you had Republican interest in the seat all along Republicans had thought that Sherrod Brown was vulnerable this time around and Josh Mandel was the top vote getter in 2010 right behind Chief Justice Maureen O'Conner of the Ohio Supreme Court and he is a prolific fundraiser so I think the Republican Party looked at this race as one they could win and potentially gain control of the U.S. Senate. That’s not working out right now, at least, when you look at the polls. The polls are showing that this race is not only neck and neck which it was for a while its actually now the Quinnipiac/CBS News/New York Times poll this week showed that Sherrod Brown is leading by 10 points over Josh Mandel. So there has been a lot of interest in this race all along and of course the outside groups. The outside spending in this race is $19.5 million against Sherrod Brown and about $7 million against Josh Mandel so there is a lot of interest in this race nationally as well as here in the state.

M: You mentioned the polling numbers I mean it looked like that latest poll showed a double digit lead between the two and I'm wondering what does the Mandel Campaign have to do to close that gap?

K: Well, first of all a lot of Republicans are saying that poll is wrong, that that poll overestimates Democratic turnout, that Democratic turnout would be bigger than it was in 2008 and they say that that poll is wrong they're not disputing that they might indeed be behind but they say that this 10 point gap and in other states the gap in the Presidential Race is much bigger than that they said that is just not the case. Josh Mandel is saying his own internal polling is showing he is actually leading Sherrod Brown. So, I think, you know, you have a debate over whether the polls are right or wrong, but certainly Mandel does have an issue if Obama is leading in Ohio there is potential that Sherrod Brown could win on that coat tails and, so, Mandel has to, at this point, decide whether he wants to continue with the campaign that he is running or change the direction, at least that’s what I get. I talked to two strategists, two messaging strategists, over the weekend for our TV show and they were saying that it looks like Josh Mandel is at a turning point here and which way does he want to go in his campaign.

M: You reported this week that this race is getting increasingly nasty and the attack ads from both sides are showing no signs of slowing.

[Sound clip]: We need a Senator who shows up to work, Sherrod Brown missed over 350 votes when he finally showed up voted to raise his pay 6 times.

[Sound clip]: Josh Mandel, he's become the candidate of the Big Lie. Fact checkers call his attacks pants on fire he may be the most dishonest candidate in the country.

M: Some really harsh words from Senator Brown, what's he talking about here? 

K: Well this Pants on Fire! rating is the worst rating that the fact checking organization, Politifact, that works out of Plain Dealer and other newspapers, that’s the worst rating that they hand out. They've handed it to Josh Mandel 6 times in this campaign and it means that not only is this statement false but it's so false that it's off the charts false. Now Sherrod Brown has gotten a false statement as well, he's even gotten a Pants on Fire!, but it’s been nowhere near what Josh Mandel has added up to. And you know Mandel says he stands by the rulings that have gotten him the Pants on Fire!, the statements that have gotten him the Pants on Fire! he says he stands by those statements that he has facts that prove this. He has no idea why Politifact would rule against him and he actually cites Politifact in rulings that they've made against Sherrod Brown but then Mandel says that Politifact is wrong on rulings they’ve made against him. The whole idea here though is that this is a very very nasty campaign, these are two combatants who may or may not have expected to be going at each other quite as much as they are and its gotten nasty not only with outside spending against the candidates but then with the candidates going up against each other.

M: The debates are coming up and what do you think that we are going to expect to see from those two, from both senator brown and Josh Mandel.

K: Well, I get the pleasure of being the moderator for the first debate which is October 15th before the City Club of Cleveland. They are both from the Cleveland area so this should be very interesting to see them on their home turf, so to speak. And this is going to be a battle between two very very different candidates. Sherrod Brown is a seasoned veteran he's been doing this for 38 years. Josh Mandel is considered a rising star in the Republican Party he has a lot of supporters of his own. And it’s going to be very interesting to watch these two candidates play off each other for the first time being in the same room in front of an Audience. They've been in the same room in front of editorial boards and it’s gotten fiery. I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens when you put these two gentlemen in front of a live audience and they have to take questions.

M: You can see the full interview with Karen Kasler and Sherrod Brown and Josh Mandel in the state of Ohio carrying on PBS stations this weekend. Karen Kasler with the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau thanks so much for being here.

K: It’s great to be with you.