Josh Mandel is considered a GOP rising star but an underdog in this race. Party operatives on both sides of the aisle agree that Brown, a liberal stalwart in the Senate, will be tough to beat. Nonetheless, spending from outside groups, coupled with the general-election climate in this manufacturing- and businesses-centered swing state, will make the contest one to watch as the GOP wrestles to gain control of the Senate.
Republicans believe Mandel has what it takes to give Brown a good run: He has raised an impressive $5.8 million (with $4.3 million on hand) and comes with a compelling personal story. But some acknowledge that he isn’t there yet; he needs more polish on the stump and to find his groove in countering criticism that he is too young, too inexperienced and perhaps too ambitious to run for Senate so soon after becoming treasurer.
In addition, his nascent candidacy has been plagued by unwelcome headlines, which have bolstered Democrats’ portrait of him as an absentee official. Earlier this month, Mandel flew to the Bahamas for a campaign fundraiser with payday lenders, missing a monthly meeting of the state Board of Deposit. At the least, the trip provided bad optics. Indeed, Mandel has skipped all but one of the board’s meetings, sending delegates on his behalf. His predecessors hardly had perfect attendance records, but his consistent absences from the meetings fuels detractors’ narrative that he isn’t doing his job.
When asked in an interview with RealClearPolitics why he doesn’t attend the meetings and whether he considers attendance a key part of his job, he demurred. “The main parts of my jobs are collecting, protecting and investing people’s tax money, and we’re doing a great job at it,” he said. Mandel cites the state’s high credit and bond ratings and a liquidity portfolio that has increased by $1.4 billion since he took office — all while trimming $1.2 million from the budget. At the one Board of Deposit meeting he attended, last week, he eliminated two banks that are accused of fraud from managing Ohio pension investments — something he campaigned on.