JULIE CARR SMYTH
COLUMBUS — The second debate in Ohio’s hotly contested U.S. Senate debate turned almost vitriolic, as Republican challenger Josh Mandel called U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown a liar and Brown said Mandel can’t be trusted.
The tenor of the televised debate in Columbus mirrored the barrage of negative TV ads that have marked a race that is one of the most expensive in the nation.
Mandel, the 35-year-old state treasurer, called the 2008 bailout spearheaded under then-GOP President George Bush “fiscally irresponsible and morally wrong” and said he would not support similar moves if elected.
Brown, 59, criticized Mandel for failing to support the auto bailout that was connected to 800,000 Ohio jobs and for wanting to privatize Medicare.
Mandel at one point urged viewers of the Columbus debate to “type in Google Translate” to understand Brown’s “Washingtonspeak.” He said Brown has a poor record on small business and unemployed Ohioans need someone new.
Brown, a Democrat, said he’s won the endorsements of many Ohio newspapers because Mandel has held four offices in seven years and can’t be trusted to show up to work. He was referring to the fact that Mandel missed the first 14 monthly meetings of the powerful Board of Deposits that he chairs as treasurer.
“He’s more concerned about his next job than the jobs of people in this country,” Brown said. “This is hardly somebody who’s going to be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
After one such exchange, Mandel stared into the camera and said, “Senator, you are a liar.”
Brown replied that Mandel had taken his attacks to a new low.
The auto bailout continued to dominate the conversation, with Brown supporting it and Mandel calling it a mistake.
Mandel was a Cleveland-area city councilman and state legislator before being elected state treasurer two years ago. Brown is a former Ohio secretary of state who was elected to the U.S. House in 1992 and is serving his first term in the Senate.
Brown’s defeat of Republican Mike DeWine six years ago surprised political prognosticators — and has remained a loss the GOP would like to reverse.
That 2006 victory made Brown the first Democrat that Ohioans had sent to the Senate since former astronaut John Glenn retired in 1999.
Brown is among the Senate’s most liberal members, while Mandel is a political moderate whose positions have become more conservative during the campaign.
Polls have consistently shown Brown with a slight lead.
Former Bush operative Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, the affiliated Crossroads GPS, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have spent tens of millions of dollars against Brown in the state. Mandel attack ads have come largely from labor-backed groups who favor Brown.
The debate was held at the corporate headquarters of Nationwide Insurance in downtown Columbus.