The campaign for U.S. Senate in Ohio is the most expensive such race in state history -- and is about to get even more costly when the new fundraising numbers are released next month. And it’s also likely to be one of the nastiest campaigns ever. And Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports, the candidates show no signs of letting up.
Incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown leads Republican challenger Josh Mandel both in reported fundraising and the latest poll. But they’re both scoring big in attack ads. When fact checkers at Politifact checked one of Mandel’s ads against Brown this summer, they awarded it with a “false” rating and two rulings of “Pants on Fire." That helped Brown generate his latest ad.
Brown ad: "Josh Mandel -- He’s become the candidate of the big lie. Fact-checkers call his attacks ‘Pants on Fire.’ He may be the most dishonest candidate in the country."
Brown also set up a website, JoshMandel-is-lying.com. Mandel retaliated with this ad, which blasts Brown before showing Mandel talking to a group of approving listeners.
Mandel ad: "We need a Senator who shows up to work. Sherrod Brown missed over 350 official votes. When he finally showed up, he voted to raise his own pay six times. Sherrod Brown -- living by different rules than us."
Mandel says he’s not offended by the label of liar that’s been attached to him in this race.
Mandel: “I don’t take personal offense because he’s just trying to win the campaign, he’s trying to distract voters from his record. But the people who do know me around the state, they know that the way I was raised in my family, the way I was raised in the Marine Corps, standing with integrity, standing with honor and standing with principal means everything. And I’m proud to tell the truth.”
But Brown says voters should question what Mandel says.
Brown: “If I was about to be awarded the Heisman Trophy for 'Pants on Fire,' I would say all kinds of things to change the subject. All these things that have been said about Josh Mandel not telling the truth are said by the state’s newspapers -- the Columbus Dispatch, an endorsement I’ve never gotten and probably never will, the Akron Beacon Journal, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, newspapers that didn’t endorse me six years ago have both said -- one of them said, ‘How low can Josh Mandel go?'”
Mandel has gotten the “Pants on Fire” rating six times. But Mandel notes that Politifact’s “Lie of the Year” last year was the statement advanced by several Democrats, including Sherrod Brown, that when Republicans approved the budget of now-vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, they voted to end Medicare.
Mandel: "This is an organization that purports to judge the facts. Frankly sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong. But I agree with them when they called Sherrod Brown as the Politifact lie of the year."
Kasler: “Do you stand by the other ads and statements that you’ve made that they gave you the 'Pants on Fire' ruling for?”
Mandel: “Sure, I mean they’ve botched a bunch. I’ll give you an example. Sherrod Brown has voted to give billions of dollars of our tax money to foreign countries. It’s 100 percent true, it’s in the voting record. For some reason, that organization said it was false, I’m not sure why. They botch things all the time.”
Brown has been hit with the "Pants on Fire" rating once -- for a statement about debates and not an ad. And Brown says Mandel has had help in this ad war.
Brown: “They’ve spent $19.5 million of attack ads against me, outside money.”
Kasler: “That’s not Josh Mandel’s campaign -- that’s the outside money.”
Brown: “That’s just, that’s splitting hairs. The fact is that outside interest groups -- oil companies, Chinese interests, whether it’s outsourced companies or the Chinese communist party, we don’t really know that, who it is, Wall Street banks, are piling on. My opponent’s a beneficiary of that because they spent more money attacking me than any senate race in the country.”
Brown and Mandel meet face to face for their first debate before the City Club of Cleveland on Oct. 15.
To hear the full interviews with the candidates in the U.S. Senate race, tune in to "The State of Ohio" on PBS stations statewide this weekend, or listen online.