by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
You’ll find it in Newsweek‘s profile of the Ohio Senate race, in which Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown finds himself in a tighter-than-expected contest with his Republican challenger.
In a normal year, for a normal Democratic incumbent, the FOP endorsement would be a sure sign of an impending blowout. But 2012 is not a normal year—and Brown is not a normal incumbent. Over the last nine months, spending on anti-Brown television ads by super PACs and 501(c)(4) “social welfare” groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, the 60 Plus Association, and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS has soared to more than $11.5 million; meanwhile, Brown’s average polling lead over his Republican opponent, State Treasurer Josh Mandel, has been cut in half. The FOP’s support is no longer a cherry atop the frontrunner’s sundae; it’s a shield that’s about to get battered in a very brutal, very expensive battle.
Half an hour later, a slightly less jovial Brown tells Newsweek how he’s really feeling today. “I’m disturbed,” he admits. “If it weren’t for all the outside money, this wouldn’t even be a race.”
There it is, in the last sentence. Incumbent senators aren’t supposed to have to work for their re-election. The power and money inherently tied to incumbency are supposed to guarantee that members of the club keep their privileges.
Perhaps we need more hotly contested races, an idea John Hood favors.