Sherrod Brown Follows Ted Strickland’s Negative Playbook

Ohioans know Sherrod Brown.  The US Senator been running for and held public office for three decades.     Ohioans don’t know Josh Mandel.  He’s been on the planet for only three decades.  So the race to “introduce” 35-year-old Josh Mandel to voters is on.

The Mandel campaign introduces the Republican in two effective ads portraying the Ohio State Treasurer as a work-boot-wearing war veteran, family man, and conservative fiscal watchdog.  The ads have helped Mandel cut Brown’s lead from fifteen points to six.



Sherrod Brown Starts Negative

While Josh Mandel is displaying muddy boots, the Sherrod Brown campaign launched its television ad campaign by slinging mud.  The campaign has run just two ads – both negative. One criticizes Mandel for missing meetings of the board that oversees the state of Ohio’s investments. The other criticizes him for hiring inexperienced political allies to key positions in the treasurer’s office.

Negative Ads Backfired on Strickland

Ted Strickland used this define-your-opponent-first tactic against challenger John Kasich in the 2010 campaign for Ohio Governor.   Strickland went negative right away- trying to tie Kasich to Wall Street and Lehman Brothers, where Kasich worked as a managing director. Strickland’s critics argued the Democrat first should have touted accomplishments like education reform and clean energy incentives with positive ads and then attack his Republican opponent’s Wall Street past.  But observers noted Strickland’s record also included the loss of 400,000 jobs.  Still, many believe Strickland lost his “good guy” appeal by going negative right off the bat.

Brown Faces Same Choice

Sherrod Brown finds himself in the same spot.  Like Strickland, the Ohio economy has worsened during his term, so voters could see positive ads touting Brown’s accomplishments as pure spin.  But like Strickland could have done, Brown could cherry pick some popular accomplishments to tout.  His support of the auto bailout is one President Obama is using and would seem to gain Brown support in manufacturing-rich areas of the state.

Brown’s supporters argue the senator is just fighting back against months of issue ads attacking him.   Fair point, there have been a lot of grainy unflattering pictures of Sherrod Brown on TV for months.   But so far Sherrod Brown has chosen to fight his opponents’ ads – negative and positive with only negative ones.   It did not work for Ted Strickland, and so far it’s not working for Sherrod Brown.

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