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Government and Politics

Brown commits to debate, Mandel has not yet
One political science professor says Mandel has more to lose in a debate
This story is part of a special series.

Simon Husted

Ohio’s Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown has committed to a Cleveland City Club debate in early October. His challenger, Republican Josh Mandel has not.

Traditionally, University of Akron political scientist David Cohen says, it was challengers who were anxious for debates.

Listen to Cohen on prior conventional wisdom

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“Challengers always wanted to debate as a way to try and close an advantage,” Cohen says. “Not just in terms in money but to kind of get their name out there and to show that they were on equal footing with the incumbent.”

But Cohen says the Citizens’ United decision changed that. That Supreme Court decision allows corporations and other groups to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence campaigns.

Listen to how the Citizen's United ruling has affected elections
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“What we are seeing in the post-Citizens United World is that challengers are able to raise more money and in fact they’re able to have many more surrogate groups to lean on their side that are wealthy and that can really erase the incumbency advantage,” Cohen says.

And, in fact, super PACs on Mandel’s side are out-spending pro-Brown PACS by more than four-to-one.

Still, Cohen says Mandel could be vulnerable in a debate because he lacks Brown’s experience.  A Mandel spokesman told the Plain Dealer that he wants to debate and is just trying to figure out what schedule works.  

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