Ohio is one of the most down-the-middle purple states in the country and inarguably a good example of the country as a whole - industrial areas, farming alleys, mountains and coastal areas. It could also once again be here where the presidential race is decided, as it was in 2004.
And it is also in Ohio where Sen. Sherrod Brown could be key to Democrats retaining control of the Senate. The Democrat has a statistically safe lead over his Republican challenger, virtually putting the seat out of reach for the GOP, which needs a net pickup of four seats to reach the magic number of 51 and take over Congress's upper chamber.
They do not seem likely to get it in Ohio. According to the political Web site RealClearPolitics, Brown holds an average lead of 8.3 percentage points - 47.3 to 39 - over his Republican challenger, state treasurer Josh Mandel, among the many polls taken on the race.
Brown's lead comes even as President Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney are in a statistical tie - the same RealClearPolitics polling average shows Obama up by only 1.8 points, easily within a standard margin of error.
The state has generally tilted to the Republicans, since no GOP presidential candidate has ever reached the White House without winning it, and former Republican Rep. John Kasich won the governor's mansion in 2008.
However, in a state with middle-minded voters, Brown is no moderate - a Washington Post database of his votes show he has stuck with the Democrats 94 percent of the time while in the Senate.
So what explains Brown's seemingly surprising lead? He has a longer political resume than Mandel - the 59-year-old Brown has been winning elections in the state since 1974, serving as a state House member, state treasurer and U.S. congressman before his Senate election in 2006. His wife, Connie, is also a former Pulitzer Price-winning journalist at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Additionally, although small, he has an all-important financial advantage - Federal Election Commission records show he has $6.3 million in the bank compared to $5.3 million for Mandel.
Mandel, 34, by contrast has held office in the state House and was elected as state treasurer in 2010. Like Brown, he is no moderate either, which may turn off independent voters. However, he has demonstrated strong fund-raising skills, many analysts note, and he can offer a youthful energy that some may find appealing.
Brown's edge is far from a guarantee, since polls show the race has gotten closer over the past several months - this time last year, Brown's lead was at about a 16-point average, or twice the current total.
by RTT Staff Writer
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