Shakeup in Senate race after Mandel drops out
A likely opponent to take on Senator Sherrod Brown has dropped out of the race and thrown a curveball for many Ohio political insiders. Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel ended his senatorial Friday citing health concerns for his wife.
"I was pretty surprised," said Republican strategist Bob Clegg who had worked with Mandel. "Josh was planning this second race against Sherrod Brown since the end of the first campaign against Sherrod Brown."
Mandel lost to Brown in the 2012 Senate race but had raised roughly $4 million for his second attempt.
"Josh was the clear frontrunner," Clegg said. "However I also believe he was going to have to spend some of that money in that primary."
Clegg said wealthy Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons likely will become the new frontrunner for the Republicans. Gibbons has been campaigning for months but has never run for public office before.
"There's something to say about an outsider coming in," he said. "Obviously we just saw in our 2016 election where we had a total outsider Donald Trump win."
How Mandel leaving the race affects the general election depends on whom you ask.
"It looked early on like this was really going to be a tough race for Senator Brown," said Dr. Paul Beck, a political science professor at The Ohio State University. "It now looks like it will be less of a challenge than one thought."
Democratic sources said Mandel dropping out of the race may not necessarily be such an advantage for Brown. They said they liked their chances against Mandel and may have a tougher campaign against a more unknown candidate like Gibbons.
Beck said he anticipates Brown having an advantage come this fall. He said historically the party not in the White House does well in the mid-term election and President Trump's approval ratings could help Democrats.
"It's felt that 2018 will be a wave election in favor of the Democrats," he said. 'That will obviously benefit Sherrod Brown."
Mandel is term-limited as the Ohio treasurer so he will leave office next year. He can keep the money he's raised for his campaign and use it for another campaign in the future.
Two Republican gubernatorial candidates have been rumored to be interested in joining the Senate race. Rep. Jim Renacci's campaign did not return a call for comment. Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor's campaign said she had been asked to run and considered it, but she's planning to stay in the race for governor.