- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2006

A new poll shows the Ohio U.S. Senate race between the Republican incumbent, Sen. Mike DeWine, and his Democratic opponent, Rep. Sherrod Brown, in a statistical dead heat, and yesterday Mr. DeWine attempted to distance himself from President Bush before next month’s midterm elections.

In a televised debate between the two lawmakers on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. DeWine said he would not have voted for the war in Iraq if he had known Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein’s regime did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

He also said he doesn’t have confidence in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. “He’s made major mistakes in this war. There’s absolutely no doubt about it.”

The Mason-Dixon poll of 625 registered Ohio voters shows Mr. Brown leading Mr. DeWine 45 percent to 43 percent, with a four-point margin of error. In the same poll, Mr. DeWine is trailing Mr. Brown among independent voters, 52 percent to 33 percent.

Mr. DeWine also attempted to separate himself yesterday from the term “cut and run,” a popular phrase among Republicans to describe Democrats’ position regarding the war on terror.

“I don’t know what it means,” he said. “I don’t know what it means to people.”

In a speech to Republican donors Thursday, Mr. Bush described the Democrats as “the party of cut and run” when defending his administration’s strategy on Iraq and the overall war on terrorism.

Nonetheless, Mr. Brown accused Mr. DeWine of being too close to Mr. Bush’s policies.

“People who sit on the intelligence committees, like Mike DeWine, simply haven’t done their jobs. They’ve not demanded accountability,” Mr. Brown said. “They didn’t demand a plan to reconstruct Iraq and rebuild Iraq. And then they didn’t demand any kind of exit strategy.”

Much of the NBC debate focused on Iraq, with Mr. DeWine and Mr. Brown offering their own ideas about how best to resolve the conflict and bring U.S. troops home. Mr. DeWine said he does not support a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops, while Mr. Brown, who voted against the war, said U.S. commanders should initiate a plan for troop withdrawal within two years.

When it was pointed out that he voted in favor of a 1998 resolution calling for regime change in Iraq, Mr. Brown said he supported the resolution under the reasoning that economic sanctions would be enough to force Saddam from power.

“Without military action?” Mr. Russert asked.

“Well, I don’t know. We might have,” Mr. Brown said.

It has been an especially difficult year for Republicans in Ohio. Gov. Bob Taft and Rep. Bob Ney both pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges, and the state has one of the higher casualty rates among U.S. troops serving in Iraq. Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, the once-promising Republican gubernatorial candidate, now trails his Democratic opponent, Rep. Ted Strickland, by double digits.

“The climate, as they say, in politics is not good. But Ohioans know me,” Mr. DeWine said when asked if his campaign was negatively being affected by outside forces. “I’ve served Ohioans, starting as a county prosecutor in 1976, for 30 years. I think they know my integrity. I think they know my honesty. I think they know who I am.”

However, Mr. Brown said, “It’s a bit more than a perception,” and pointed out that Mr. DeWine previously had accepted campaign contributions from disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The Mason-Dixon poll shows 10 percent of voters remain undecided about which candidate they will support, meaning either candidate is well within striking distance with just over a month before Election Day.

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