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Joel Mowbray reports: A Josh Mandel update

Our occasional contributor Joel Mowbray (jdmowbra@erols.com) first brought the newly elected Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel to the attention of our readers in the 2008 post “Star on the rise,” when Josh was running for reelection to the Ohio legislature. Joel subsequently reported for us how then state rep. Mandel’s Democratic opponent was seeking to use Josh’s return to duty for a second tour in Iraq for the surge against him during Josh’s campaign for reelection. Today Joel provides this update on Ohio’s newly elected state treasurer:

Once left for dead in the region, conservatives are making a comeback in the Midwest. Right-wingers and many others are swooning for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and soon there could be a new Midwestern conservative with a national following.

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Marine who served two tours in Iraq, is a familiar name already to loyal Power Line readers. Although it appears he’s reluctant to jump into a new race right on the heels of knocking off a sitting treasurer, Mandel is getting pressured by many in the Ohio GOP to challenge liberal Sen. Sherrod Brown. The Washington Post and Hugh Hewitt have recently written glowing stories on why Mandel would make a strong candidate, even as they acknowledge that there’s a good chance he might not run.

It’s not hard to see why establishment Republicans and grassroots conservatives alike are pushing Mandel to run.
Political operatives love Mandel for his profile. Not only is Mandel a Marine who served two tours in Iraq, but he also has built a national fundraising network. He also was elected to the state House from a Cleveland area seat where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one, and he’s an unusually effective retail politician.

Conservatives love him because he has a strong track record, including legitimate foreign policy bona fides and a history of unabashed fiscal conservatism. He’s shown other Republicans that it’s possible to attract moderates, independents and even Democrats without compromising on principles.

His profile surged four years ago when, with his first bill as a new state legislator, he co-sponsored the successful effort to divest Ohio’s pension funds from companies doing business in the Iranian energy sector.
That initiative is what gave Mandel a national profile as a demonstrated leader, which in turn enabled him to establish a national fundraising network.

But what will help Mandel most with the conservative base is that he was a “Tea Party” Republican long before there was such a thing.

In his first political office, serving on the suburban Cleveland city council, Mandel led the charge for cutting property taxes. Initially, he was opposed by six of his fellow councilmen. Then he reached out to the community, managing to turn out hundreds of ordinary citizens demanding tax relief.

The result? The city council voted six-to-one to cut property taxes – one of the relative few times such a thing has happened in Ohio.

In 2008, Mandel was one of a handful of conservative lawmakers who resisted intense pressure from GOP leaders and opposed a bloated bipartisan “stimulus” bill. The bill, which Republican operatives argued would help win moderate voters, passed anyway.

Then voters promptly handed control of the state House to Democrats.

Last year, Mandel proved his ability to run an effective statewide campaign, winning more votes than any other candidate for executive office. Yet if Mandel is interested in running for the Senate next year, he’s not showing his hand.

Should Mandel choose to run for the Senate, Democrats will fret not just about losing the Senate seat, but also about the possible impact on Obama’s chances in the Buckeye state. Ohio Republican operatives see Mandel as a dynamic and attractive surrogate who has also built an impressive turnout operation – the kinds of things that can tip a close race elsewhere on the ballot.

All this speculation, of course, is premature. But if Mandel does decide to run for the Senate, another Midwestern conservative soon could become a household name.

When Josh first ran for state representative in 2006, he wore out three pairs of brown leather shoes while knocking on 19,679 doors in his Democratic-leaning district. When Josh visited Minnesota last year year he brought a pair of the worn-out shoes along as an exhibit. I declared Josh my favorite candidate in the last election cycle. Like many of the extraordinary young veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has a great contribution to make at home. In the column linked in Joel’s post above, Hugh Hewitt dubs Josh “Sherrod Brown’s worst nightmare.”

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