What If They Gave A Debate And Nobody Cared?

With all of the focus on the Buckeye State in the presidential election, we Ohioans can be excused for forgetting that we will be voting on many races on November 6.  For example, we’ll be deciding whether to retain incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown or elect Republican Josh Mandel instead.

Normally a Senate race is a big deal, but this year I’m not hearing anyone talk about the Brown-Mandel contest — and I work in an office where many people, from both parties, are very interested in politics.  The candidates have had three debates, but only one was broadcast on TV and I don’t know anyone who watched it.  I’m sure that all of the debates were fully covered in the daily newspapers, but Kish and I don’t subscribe to a daily newspaper any longer, and I haven’t seen any coverage of the debates when I’ve visited state news websites.  As a result, I assume that not much happened — no gaffes, no knee-buckling zingers, and probably not much of in the way of any kind of news.

I think that means lots of people will be voting on Election Day without much information.  If Ohioans know anything about the race, they know that Sherrod Brown backed the GM-Chrysler bailout.  Brown mentions that whenever he can; if he could walk around carrying a large flashing billboard advertising that fact, I think he would.  Mandel, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to politics who presents himself as a fiscal conservative tax-cutter; if most Ohioans know anything about him, it is that he served in the military post-9/11.  The campaign ads haven’t done much to address the information deficit, either.

An electorate with ADD is going to be unpredictable, and therefore the polls — which indicate that Brown is ahead by anywhere from one to nine points — probably don’t mean much.  People will get into the voting booth and make a decision, and name and party affiliation will likely tell the tale.  Fortunately for the incumbent, Brown has always been a magical name in Ohio politics.  If Mandel is going to win, he’d better hope that Mitt Romney wins and has very long coattails.

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Sherrod And Josh

This November Ohioans will be electing a U.S. Senator.  We’ll be choosing between incumbent Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Republican Josh Mandel.

Sherrod Brown is a prototype Democrat.  He is a forceful advocate for  labor unions, and strongly supported the government bailout of GM and Chrysler — but ardently opposes bailouts of banks and touts an “end too big to fail” petition that seeks to break up the big banks.  Brown has a decidedly liberal voting record and is a reliable supporter of President Obama’s legislative agenda.  He’s been a figure on the Ohio political scene for years and he possesses the magical Brown name, which has given Ohio politicians a leg up on their opponents since the dawn of time.

Josh Mandel, in contrast, is a relative newcomer.  He’s 34, but looks younger.  Mandel is a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq, is a strong proponent of cutting federal spending and balancing the federal budget, and is the darling of many conservative pundits.  He was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 2006 and currently serves as the state’s Treasurer — although he’s criticized for not doing much in that position while focusing on running for the Senate.

It’s an election that will present some sharp contrasts of liberal versus conservative and experience versus youth.  With Republicans trying to regain control of the Senate, the race has attracted enormous attention and buckets of money from outside the state, which means we’re already seeing lots of negative ads about both candidates.  The early polls show Brown in the lead.

The Brown-Mandel match-up is another instance in which Ohio — as is so often the case — may be a bellwether state.  Come Election Night, the results of this contest should tell us a lot about the direction in which the country is heading.

I Really Don’t Care About The Money

We’ve got a hot U.S. Senate race in Ohio this year:  incumbent Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, is looking to fend off the challenge of Republican Josh Mandel.

I’ll write more about the race as we get closer to the election.  For now, I’ll just say that I’m mystified by the tactics of the Brown campaign.  I get their e-mails constantly, and they all are about money.  How much money Mandel is raising, how much money “special interests” are contributing to support Mandel’s candidacy, how many TV ads have been purchased as a result of the money contributed to the Mandel campaign, and how much money the Brown campaign needs to make up for the cash landslide that is tumbling into Ohio.

Money, money, money!  Obviously, the Brown campaign believes that the constant drumbeat of news about what donors have contributed to Mandel’s campaign will spur me to open my checkbook, again and again, to give money to Sherrod Brown.  My question is:  why do they think that is what will happen?  Isn’t it equally plausible that I’ll just get sick to death of being hit up for money and immediately delete their e-mails, unread?  (After all, we’re still six months away from the election — how many more money-grubbing e-mails do they think I can bear?)  Or that I’ll just give up because the money lead for the Mandel campaign apparently is insurmountable?  Or that I’ll conclude that the Brown campaign doesn’t care about anything except cold, hard cash?

Political campaigns used to be about candidates, issues, speeches and rallies, now they are about money, money, and more money.  We are all the poorer for this.

Sayonara To The Senate

Although everyone will be focusing on the presidential election come 2012, the battle for the majority in the Senate will be at least as interesting.

In 2011, a surprising number of Senators announced they would not run for re-election.  The last was Senator Ben Nelson — the Nebraska Senator who was criticized, here and elsewhere, for shabby politicking in connection with the passage of the “health care reform” legislation.  In all, seven Democratic Senators will be retiring, along with two Republicans.  The retirement decisions make the current Democratic majority in the Senate particularly perilous, because Democrats are defending 23 seats this election cycle, compared to only 10 Republican seats that are up for challenge.

The Washington Post‘s political blog, The Fix, rates the most interesting 2012 Senate races, and one of its top 10 is incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown’s battle to win reelection against the apparent Republican challenger, State Treasurer Josh Mandel.  Ohio is always a bellwether, and the race between Brown and Mandel may tell us a lot about which way the country is leaning.

One thing is certain:  there will be a number of newcomers in the Senate in 2013.  This will be a good thing, because the current Senate has been an embarrassing, inert body that has virtually no accomplishments to its name.