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Rubio: Ohio a Must-Win for GOP Senate, WH Hopes

Rubio: Ohio a Must-Win for GOP Senate, WH Hopes

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - September 18, 2012


RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Speaking at a GOP "victory center" campaign event here Tuesday, Mitt Romney surrogate Marco Rubio said Republicans can neither gain control of the U.S. Senate nor win the White House without carrying the Buckeye State.

“Here is the bottom line: We can’t take back the Senate if Josh Mandel is not elected to the U.S. Senate and we cannot win the White House if Ohio doesn’t go for Romney,” the Florida senator told about 150 people, mostly seniors, gathered on a rainy morning in this Cleveland suburb. “I feel confident saying that. And how those two are going to be decided is not on the TV ads, not in the radio ads, not what the press writes or doesn’t write. It’s going to be decided by you.”

Rubio talked more about the importance of turning out the vote than he did about Romney personally. With Mandel standing nearby, he praised the young Senate hopeful first, mentioning Romney a few times later in the speech.

No modern president has won the nation’s highest office without Ohio’s help. Barack Obama carried the state four years ago by just four points, and the race figures to be close this time too. Both candidates have spent -- and will continue to spend -- a lot of time here: Romney was in the state on Friday for the third time since his party’s convention, and Obama held rallies in Cincinnati and Columbus on Monday. Both campaigns agree that turnout in this large, manufacturing-heavy state is key in a battleground where substantial victories can be defined by the slimmest of margins.

Meanwhile, the Senate contest here between Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and state Treasurer Mandel is narrowing. By most accounts, Republicans have a path to gaining the Senate majority that doesn’t necessarily include Ohio, though taking Brown’s seat would certainly make that accomplishment easier. The presidential and Senate races here are tied closely together, and observers say the top of the ticket will have a significant impact on the bottom.

“These are two very high-profile campaigns, but with two different types of personalities,” said John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, comparing the presidential and Senate contests. “Ohio is a very competitive state, though, so the Senate race here will be close.”

Obama currently leads Romney in the RCP average for Ohio by 4.2 percentage points, while Brown leads Mandel by 7.2 percentage points. “Brown seems to be ahead . . . but it could get a lot closer as we get closer to the election,” said Green, noting the race has tightened earlier than expected. “Normally when an incumbent runs against an unknown challenger, the race isn’t this close this far out . . . so I do think the level of spending has something to do with” that.

Outside groups supporting Mandel have vastly outspent Democrats, a point Brown often cites when asked about the competitiveness of the race. Mandel has drawn negative headlines regarding his attendance record at board of deposit meetings and fundraising events, and many of his claims against his opponent have been labeled false by fact-checking organizations.

Still, Romney surrogates like Rubio, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Arizona Sen. John McCain have stumped in Ohio for Mandel, a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq. In addition to jobs and the economy, Mandel has been focusing his campaign on what he calls “Obama’s war on coal” -- an appeal to the southeastern parts of the state. On Tuesday, Mandel called Brown “a nice guy . . . who loves his country,” but someone who has been in Washington for too long.

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Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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