Rasmussen reported this morning that the latest poll in the important Senate race in Ohio has both incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and GOP challenger Josh Mandel tied at 44%. Even though the race is tied, the finding suggests an edge for Mandel, as Brown is far below the critical 50% threshold usually enjoyed by strong incumbents.
Brown was first elected to the Senate in 2006, a Democrat wave-election. Today’s political climate is orders of magnitude different than 2006. Inhabiting the far-left wing of the Democrat party, Brown is an odd fit for a swing state like Ohio. Brown seems to understand this a bit. Last year he tied with Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as the most liberal member of the Senate. This year, Brown “moved up” the rankings and now is merely as liberal as CA Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). That’s still too left for Ohio.
Mandel, the current state Treasurer, is an energetic and engaging campaigner. He served two tours of duty in Iraq as a Marine intelligence officer. His campaign unites both the GOP establishment and the grass-roots tea party activists. That will be a very successful model this cycle.
The GOP needs to net 4 seats to gain control of the Senate (3 if Romney wins). There are hard fought campaigns across the country, with RealClearPolitics rating 9 states as toss-ups. Ohio isn’t one of those.
Ohio has been considered a “second tier” pick-up opportunity for the GOP. If the GOP is gaining ground there, it suggests a wave similar to 2010 may be building. Senate races, even though they are state campaigns, have an odd habit of breaking clearly across the country for one party or another. If Brown is in trouble, it could spell doom for Democrats across the country.