Friday, March 11, 2011

Rob Frost stokes draft-Mandel movement for Senate

Josh Mandel, the young state treasurer from Lyndhurst, is living a charmed political life. The 33-year-old Iraq war vet just got his new job, and already, conservatives are cajoling him to run fo the U.S. Senate against Sherrod Brown next year.

Last week the Washington Post profiled Mandel in its series "The Rising" about young elected officials with promising careers. Next, conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt hyped Mandel in his Washington Examiner column as Brown's "worst nightmare."

Rob Frost, Cuyahoga County's Republican chairman, likes the buzz. "Hugh has joined the chorus of Ohio conservatives, Republican leaders and business leaders who are trying to draft Josh into the Senate race against Sherrod Brown," Frost writes in an e-mail this morning. Frost wants to draft Mandel too: "Josh has made it clear that he's focused on running the Treasurer's office, but the consensus that is developing in Ohio and across the country is that Josh is our best bet to beat Sherrod."

Ohio Republicans have Sherrod-hunting on their minds this week. The senator is learning, the hard way, the first rule of cyber-era political debate: The first person to invoke Hitler loses the argument.

Meanwhile, Mandel's working to repair his biggest campaign foul, his fall TV ad against Kevin Boyce, widely criticized as Muslim-baiting. From the Post profile:
"I made a mistake, and I learned from it and put it behind me," says Mandel now. "I regret running the ad, and I've broken bread with my opponent and we've both put it behind us."

I get why Republicans dream of a Mandel candidacy, why his quote to the Post — "I'm not ruling it out" -- sounded to them like a horse race's opening bell. War veterans are attractive candidates, and experience in the Iraqi desert adds gravitas to Mandel's baby face. More mathematically, Republicans would be shrewd to run a Jewish candidate from Northeast Ohio -- it'd scramble the electoral map, peel away votes the Democrats usually count on.

Still, the buzz isn't entirely convincing. Hewitt's dismissal of Brown as an "off-the-rack lefty, tired, worn out" underestimates the Democrat's political talents, especially his ferocious campaign skills. I thought Brent Larkin sized up the race right last month: "A Mandel candidacy remains unlikely," he wrote, "as would an eventual victory." So far I haven't seen anything to lead me to disagree.

Lynne Thompson profiled Josh Mandel for Cleveland Magazine in 2008. You can read her piece here. I profiled Sherrod Brown in 2007, after his election to the Senate, and Rob Frost a few months later, when his entertaining missives, "News from the Pork Barrel Buffet," began to poke the seemingly impregnable Jimmy Dimora.

No comments: