Josh Mandel Faces The “Curse” Of Looking Young


Photo: Josh Mandel for Senate

His latest ad makes a point of saying Josh Mandel is 34-years-old.

One of the most visible characteristics of the US Senate race between Sherrod Brown and Josh Mandel is one of the least discussed, at least openly.  Amid all the talk about  unemployment, attack ads, and the outsized influence of outside groups, the first thing voters see when they take a look a Josh Mandel is his face.

His very young face.

Age could be a very big, if unspoken, issue in the final stretch of the campaign. Even though the Republican served three years on the Lyndhurst City Council, four years in the Ohio House and two years as state treasurer,  Josh Mandel looks like he could still be in high school.

Most of us would love to look younger; the Mandel campaign appears worried about it.  Mandel’s newest ad goes out of its way to say Mandel is in his mid 30′s. The narrator and graphic tell viewers he’s 34.   Mandel’s campaign is trying to use his age to his advantage – portraying him as young but accomplised leader with new ideas and labeling Sherrod Brown as a “career politician”.

If Josh Mandel looks young now, just wait until the debates.  The two candidates have agreed to three face-to-face match-ups and the visual will be striking.  The more mature Brown will be standing next to Mandel who looks like he’s 19.  Mandel would probably be OK if Sherrod Brown were in his 80′s, but he’s 59 and looks 49. Even if Mandel performs flawlessly, his youthful appearance and Brown’s expected attacks on his short resume will raise questions of whether he’s ready for the highest legislative body in the nation. The visual of the experience gap will be huge.

It will be up to Mandel to out-perform his look, and so far he’s not doing too badly.  Despite his youthful appearance and resume Mandel is holding his own in the polls. He trails Brown by about 10 points, thanks to a weak economy and all those negative ads outside groups are running against the Democrat.  And a solid performance in the debates could give Mandel a huge boost because expectations driven by his youthful appearance will be low.

Mandel does not shy away from his post-adolescent visage, and can be effectively self-deprecating.  In a speech to a conservative group in 2010 Mandel joked that while other people hope to be governor by age 50 or US Senator by age 60, his goals were more simple.  “By the time I’m 35, I just hope to be shaving,’” he said. The audience loved it.

Sherrod Brown can probably give Josh Mandel some advice on being the youngest face in the room.   Brown was only 22 when he became the youngest member Ohio House. At age 29 he ran for statewide office. Brown was 30 by the time he was sworn in as Secretary of State, two years younger than Mandel was when he took the oath as state treasurer.

And in the upcoming debates, Josh Mandel always can pull out the old Dan Quayle line and say he’s only a year younger than Jack Kennedy was when he won his first senate seat.

Then again, maybe not. Just as Lloyd Bentsen was ready for Quayle, Sherrod Brown would be ready for Josh Mandel.


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