Rob Portman skated to an easy win last year over Democratic challenger, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. Sen. Portman danced around his support for Donald Trump throughout his election campaign, trying to keep a safe distance from the non-traditional candidate Republicans slowly if not begrudgingly rallied behind, even though so-called establishment lane politicos like Gov. John Kasich sniped at the New York billionaire whenever they could.
But Sen. Portman isn’t dancing around which Republican he wants to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown next year like he did Trump. Sen. Portman said he will support Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel for that honor. In a video posted early Wednesday morning, the AP reports that Portman wants Republicans to rally around Mandel in his second consecutive run to unseat Sen. Brown, a two-term incumbent.
Sen. Portman, who won his first term in 2010 and a second last year, said of 39-year Marine veteran Mandel that hes “a fiscal conservative who he could work with ‘to get this economy moving again, to fight for more jobs and higher wages, and to restore America’s leadership role in the world.'”
Sen. Portman, Ohio’s junior senator in Washington, came out for Mandel after Republican Ohio Congressman Pat Tiberi announced he wouldn’t seek the Senate seat. According to the AP report, “The senator’s early support could deter other GOP challengers — including Republican state officeholders lining up in a crowded governor’s race — and allow Mandel to target all of his resources to fighting Brown.”
Mandel supporters have launched a super PAC to support the former city councilman and state representative made up of unlimited amounts from undisclosed donors. When Mandel lost his first race against Brown in 2012, it set a new record as the most expensive senate race in the country. Forty million or more bought hours of ugly, negative ads against Sen. Brown, who overcame the tone and the money to win with a comfortable margin.
Now that Rob Portman has gone all-in on Josh Mandel, expect more money to buy even more negative ads as Mandel gears up for another assault to advance himself to Washington.
Sherrod Brown is a 64-year old veteran of Ohio politics who Ohioans have chosen over decades to install in one public office after another, from the Ohio House to Secretary of State to the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Based on last year’s election results in Ohio, where Trump won big, some election watchers consider Brown to be potentially vulnerable to the same ill winds that blew away Hillary Clinton.
Whether Sen. Portman’s endorsement of Mandel will help the former Marine is very speculative, notwithstanding Trumps runaway win in Ohio. Mandel will maintain his alt-right strategy to capture Trump’s lightning in a bottle with base voters, even though it could backfire as the president’s popularity sinks to record lows and Sen. Brown shifts his populism bonafides into higher gear. Sen. Portman and Gov. Kasich has parted ways on Josh Mandel, with the former endorsing him early while the latter likely will never do until such time as Mandel and his campaign demonstrate they won’t be negative, which won’t happen.
Asked about Portman’s early endorsement of Mandel on his weekly Wednesday call with reporters when the Senate is in session, Sen. Brown said he wasn’t surprised at Portman’s endorsement. Regardless, Sen. Brown said he’ll continue to work with Mr. Portman on issues important to Ohioans. “I’m not surprised, politics is politics. I will continue to work with Sen. Portman” where he can, he said.
On the call with Brown today was Mark Caddo, a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Mr. Caddo said that as a veteran who came from a working family, he knows he can count on Sen. Brown to do what’s in the best interest of Ohioans in general and veterans in particular. Caddo cited the senator’s work to support janitors, saying, “That’s the kind of person I want to work for.”
Brown and Caddo made comments on the new U.S. House plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and how it will threaten healthcare for 71,000 Ohio veterans covered by Medicaid. Sen. Brown said that while he doesn’t know what the Senate will do, he says he “can’t imagine a majority of the Senate will vote for a bill that rips insurance coverage” from so many.
According to Sen. Brown’s office, “The House repeal bill would eliminate the Medicaid expansion, kicking those 25,000 Ohio veterans and 12,000 family members off of their health insurance. Then the bill would cut an additional $880 billion from traditional Medicaid, threatening coverage for the other 46,000 Ohio vets covered by the program. For every $1 Ohio spends caring for veterans through Medicaid, on average, 63 cents comes from federal dollars that would be cut by the House bill.