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Just How Competitive Is the Ohio Senate Race?

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Mandel talked about his accomplishments, his positions on issues and his campaignís message and strategy. And he even apologized for not being able to answer some overly insider questions about his campaignís media buys. In fact, if he had known the answers to those questions, I would have been concerned that he was spending too much time on campaign strategy and not enough being the candidate.

I was a little surprised that Mandel, an observant Jew who belongs to a modern orthodox synagogue, was as conservative as Brown is liberal.

According to National Journalís ratings, Brown tied for being the fifth most liberal Senator in 2011. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, the Keystone XL oil pipeline and the Central American Free Trade Agreement. He voted for the Obama health care reform plan and the stimulus, favors gay rights and is among the most liberal Senate Democrats on foreign policy. He supports legal abortion and the Employee Free Choice Act.

Mandel, a Marine who served two tours in Iraq, favors repealing the Obama health care law and supports the approval of the Keystone pipeline. He has the support of the National Right to Life political action committee and opposed card check.

On almost every measure but one, Brown and Mandel appear to be perfectly evenly matched. They are a tossup if there ever was one.

But that one measure is why I regard Brown as having the advantage. Both Roll Call and the Cook Political Report rate the race as Lean Democratic, while my newsletter has it as Tossup/Tilt Democrat.

Mandel isnít merely young looking. He could pass for 16 years old. I have a hard time believing that voters will see the GOP challenger as mature enough and prepared enough to be a Senator now.

Thirty years from now, Mandel probably will be thankful for his youthful looks, and I have no doubt that he one day will be a prominent political figure in his state. But right now, his youthful appearance is a considerable liability in a race against Brown.

Of course, Iím certainly not dismissing Mandelís candidacy this year. Since I have the race as rated Tossup/Tilt Democrat, I obviously think Mandel will be very competitive, and could well win, in November.

But Mandel probably needs Romney to carry the state in the presidential race and Buckeye State voters to view the Senate contest as a referendum on an Obama-Brown tandem if the young Republican is going to defeat the incumbent. Keep an eye on the race to see if those things are happening.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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