Ohio: Sherrod Brown, Josh Mandel Get Testy and Personal in Debate

Vicki Kuhn (right), of Wapakoneta, Ohio, and other GOP supporters cheer in the streets before the second of the three campaign debates between Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and his Republican challenger Josh Mandel. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) were alternately feisty and condescending in a debate tonight in the state's capital city.

The two-term Senator defended his "pro-worker, pro-small business" record, while Mandel accused Brown of "gobbledygook" and "Washington speak"  that requires an online translator.

“You have my commitment for my second term to continue to fight for Ohio workers and Ohio companies and to continue to stand up for the middle class," Brown said.

“Sherrod Brown says one thing in Ohio and does another thing in Washington," Mandel said several times throughout the hourlong debate. “We can’t change Washington by sending Sherrod Brown back there.”

Their Senate race is one of the most competitive and closely watched in the country, especially given the focus the presidential campaigns have given the Buckeye State. Recent public polling shows Brown with a single-digit lead over Mandel. Roll Call rates the race as Leans Democratic  — a rating that has held for almost the entirety of this cycle.

Outside the debate auditorium at Nationwide Insurance Headquarters, Brown and Mandel supporters rallied on opposite sides of North Front Street downtown. Brown's supporters marched down the block like a picket line, chanting "Sherrod Brown kept our jobs in town" and "liar, liar" to Mandel fans.

Such accusations were prevalent inside the auditorium, too.

“Senator, you are a liar, and you are lying to the people of the state of Ohio. You are falsely attacking me, and I won’t stand for it,"  Mandel said with the straight-to-the-camera focus of the Marine Corps veteran that he is. "You might want try to push people around in Washington, but I won’t stand for it.”

“Being called a liar? A liar?" responded Brown, 59, shortly after. "By the winner of the pants on crown fire [sic]. It’s a pretty remarkable thing for a young man to say — or a man of any age to say — in this political debate.”

During one of the more heated exchanges, the youthful-looking 35-year-old Mandel chastised, “Calm down, Senator. Calm down.” Some in the audience jeered.

But Brown, relaxed in his raspy voice, attacked his opponent's ambition in his short but varied career in politics. Mandel has run for four different elected offices over the past decade, including his bid for Senate, while also serving two tours in Iraq.

“I really don’t need a lecture from somebody who can’t wait to get to their next job," snapped Brown, who began his political career less than a year after graduating from Yale University, winning election to the Ohio House, as secretary of state and to the U.S. House before coming to the Senate.

Frequently, the candidates invoked former Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) as a standard-bearer in bipartisan politics. Voinovich, a Mandel supporter who served with Brown, was known for crossing party lines until he retired in 2010.

This is the second time in four days that the two candidates have debated. A final debate is scheduled for Oct. 25 in Cincinnati.

More coverage of the Rust Belt Road Trip here.