It’s just starting, so get used to it—the battle to determine who will represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate in 2019, that is. Will it be two-term Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown? Or will it be two-term Republican Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, his likely but not Republican-Party endorsed challenger?
Mandel tried but failed to unseat Brown in 2012 even though more than $40 million was spent on his behalf by the likes of the Koch Brothers and other Republican donors whose deep pockets had money to burn then, and will again this cycle.
“Sherrod Brown shouldn’t be a US Senator,” exclaimed Mandel, Ohio’s treasurer, in a fundraising email attacking Sen. Brown for too quickly expressing his concerns over President Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme, Judge Neil Gorsuch from Colorado.
“That much was clear the second he denounced President Trump’s nominee for the US Supreme Court…11 minutes after he was announced,” Mandel accused Brown of doing. “The Senate’s role is to advise and consent on judicial nominations. How can he do either if he doesn’t even take the time to learn about a nominee?”
Reviewing the judge’s record, Team Sherrod determined that Gorsuch has a history of siding with corporations over individuals, citing rulings against protecting access to basic care for women and families. Furthermore, the judge, young at just 49-years old, has argued against individuals having the power to hold corporations and Wall Street accountable for their actions.
“For all those reasons and more, Sherrod is not supporting Judge Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” Team Sherrod said in an email asking others to sign a petition to oppose the judge.
Without a Democratic White House and its president to stump for him, Sen. Brown will find his third-term run full of challenges, from raising enough money to counter the claims money spent on Mandel’s behalf will make, to defying the political winds that blew Donald Trump into the presidency last year after vanquishing Hillary Clinton by eight percentage points or more than 446 thousand votes in the Buckeye State.
Other than Ohio Supreme Court Judge William O’Neil, Sherrod Brown is the last incumbent Democrat to hold an office subject to a statewide vote. Twelve years ago, Congressman Brown beat then-U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, who went on to back-to-back terms as Ohio Attorney General and who many think will be the GOP nominee for governor for the midterm election.
To understand the road that lies ahead, Sen. Brown need only look in the rear-view mirror to see what took place when Rob Portman, Brown’s Republican junior colleague in Washington, came from behind last summer to beat Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in November. Brown spent precious little time campaigning with Strickland last year, choosing to stump for Hillary Clinton instead. It would have been great to have President Hillary Clinton at his side going forward, but that dream disappeared when she did, despite her popular vote margin win of nearly three million votes over Trump.
Now in the on-deck circle, Brown will have to muster all resources possible, including favorable treatment by media to counter the Trumpian-style campaign tactics Mandel will fire at him, as Mandel attempts to runTrump’s playbook hoping to tap into the same motivated GOP voter base from 2016.
“I don’t want someone so flippant representing me on issues this critical,” Mandel said in his fundraising plea, suggesting a donation level of $20,400. “The next appointee to the Supreme Court will be there for the rest of their life. Shouldn’t we take more than 11 minutes to think about it before we make a decision? I need your help to send Sherrod Brown home and make sure qualified nominees like Judge Gorsuch get a fair hearing. Will you support me?.”
From the beginning to the end of 2012, despite everything that happened in-between, including the $40-plus million Brown had spent against him, the spread between the candidates remained about the same, as Sen. Brown beat Mandel by 330,000 votes, even though Mandel won 66 of Ohio’s 88 counties.
Brown would like that same relationship to play out again in two years. Public Policy Polling polled the two in a hypothetical rematch in 2018. Sherrod Brown enjoys an early 47/33 lead two years out.