The Akron Beacon Journal
Sherrod Brown opened his final debate against Josh Mandel with what might have been his best moment of the rugged campaign for the U.S. Senate. The Democratic incumbent told the story of the auto rescue. He started with a conversation he had in late 2008, the industry on the brink, a Toledo autoworker sharing his fears about how he would pay his bills, feed his family, cover the cost of his daughter’s college education.
Brown then explained how the potential harm wouldn’t stop with the car companies. “It’s not just the big auto assembly plant in Youngstown or Toledo,” he said. “‘It’s the glass plant in Crestline. It’s the plant that makes components for air bags in Brunswick. It’s the diner in Marysville, the hardware store in Avon Lake. And we knew this had to be bipartisan, we knew it had to be a partnership between the federal government and local communities, local business, small and large alike. So we stepped up and did it.”
It’s easy to see the value of the rescue today, General Motors and Chrysler back in competition, the decision a key part of why Brown and President Obama carried Ohio on Election Day. No question, Brown and his Senate colleague then, George Voinovich, would step up for automakers and their workers. Still, the rescue wasn’t popular with a majority of Americans. What Brown understood was the calamity that loomed, an auto equivalent of the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
The senator pressed the case, and his decision proved a revealing contrast in the campaign, such a departure from the $40 million in negative ads and other material hurled against him by independent groups, a breathtakingly outrageous sum. The groups are known. Their donors largely are not. They constructed a dark caricature of Brown. The senator trained his focus on the reality, and he was rewarded, voters seeing past the onslaught to deliver what he earned, a second term.