Mandel's early focus has been on fundraising, and his circuit has taken him across the country. Mandel flew to Honolulu earlier this year to meet briefly with Republicans invited by Gov. Linda Lingle to meet the treasurer. For his own part, Mandel says he's proud of his grassroots support. "I think one aspect of the financial support about which we are most proud is the broad base," said Mandel, adding that "we did it with almost 3,000 individual donors." Democrats have been accusing Mandel of shirking his duties as Treasurer to run for office. "His lack of an official announcement reflects the fact that he knows he's broken his promise to Ohio voters to serve a full term as Treasurer and doesn't want to face them," said Ohio Democratic party spokesman Justin Barasky. It's uncertain whether the attacks will stick: One prominent Democrat who held a state Treasurer's office for a very short time before running for the Senate? Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, who also was blasted for avoiding public appearances after announcing his campaign. Sometimes history does repeat itself. The opposition Mandel's criticism of Brown is twofold: he's casting the senior senator as a career politician and trying to make the argument that Brown is far to the left of the majority of Ohio voters. "He is way far to the left of where mainstream Ohioans are. On top of having strong support from conservatives and traditional Republicans, we also are earning a good amount of support from pro-business, national security hawk Democrats," Mandel said. Mandel caught a break when conservative Republican Ken Blackwell decided not to mount a Senate bid. Blackwell's decision cleared the way for Mandel to avoid a competitive primary and it also freed up prominent national conservatives and groups to get behind him. The Club for Growth and Sen. Jim DeMint's influential Senate Conservatives Fund are among Mandel's backers. Keeping in step with most Republican Senate contenders, Mandel, who favored "Cut Cap and Balance," opposed the recent debt compromise that President Obama signed earlier this week. Brown voted for the measure, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer criticized Mandel in an editorial . The Ohio climate . It's not a good time to be an incumbent in Ohio. In 2006 and 2008, Democrats ushered out five Republican members of Congress, including former GOP Sen. Mike DeWine. Last year, Republicans won back the governorship, and picked five House seats back. Polling shows both President Obama and newly-elected GOP Gov. John Kasich with approval ratings underwater. Kasich's budget cuts have drawn particular ire from the electorate, and could be overturned in a statewide referendum. Mandel said he thinks voters won't be choosing a candidate in the Buckeye State Senate race based on their opinions of either Obama or Kasich - it's going to be a direct referendum between himself and Brown. "I don't think people are going to vote on the Senate race based on their opinions on Barack Obama or John Kasich," Mandel said. "I think they are going to vote on the Senate race based on the people running in the Senate race. And to that point, the fact that Sherrod Brown, has been running for political office since Richard Nixon was president, and the fact that he's been in Washington for almost 20 years, is a serious, serious problem for him." It's unlikely the Senate race will occur in a vacuum- it's more likely it will turn on whether the national environment trumps the statewide environment. Ohio's manufacturing-centered economy has struggled badly with the recession, and Obama's approval ratings have been taking a hit. If the national environment is remotely like it was in 2010, Brown will face a tough re-election. But voters are closely attuned to the governance of their own state, under a budget-cutting Republican governor whose central accomplishment taking on spending and unions is under fire. Brown has been a champion for big labor and the working-class throughout his Senate career, and he's well-positioned to energize the base against GOP overreach. Mandel, as an ally of Kasich's, could find himself on the defensive if he isn't careful. A measure signed by Kasich that curbs collective bargaining rights for public employees is headed to a direct vote this November, and polling shows support for a repeal of the bill. Foreign Policy: Mandel, who is Jewish, is openly critical of Obama's policy on Israel. "It seems like there is a pattern of treating our enemies like friends, but then treating our true fiends like garbage," he said. "A specific example would be the U.S. Israel relationship. For a long time, he's turned a blind eye to President Assad in Syria who's got blood on his hands from slaughtering innocent people, while at the same time, he advanced policies that put at risk our best friend in the Middle East, the State of Israel." But when asked about the president's performance as commander-in-chief, Mandel was not quick to offer specifics, preferring instead to speak generally about Obama's overall foreign policy and not specifying whether he supported more or fewer American troops in Afghanistan.
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