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Ahead of tomorrow's big election, both candidates are making stop after stop in the battleground state of Ohio. But we're not talking about the presidential race. We're going to focus now on the battle for control of the U.S. Senate. And the race in Ohio between incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Josh Mandel is turning out to be one of the most expensive contests. As NPR's Sonari Glinton reports, tens of millions of dollars in outside money have poured into the race.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: When you meet Ohio's State Treasurer Josh Mandel, you're struck by how young he looks. He jokes about it warming up the crowd at a rotary luncheon in Cincinnati.
JOSH MANDEL: I try to keep my personal goals relatively simple. By the time I'm 36, I just hope to be shaving.
MANDEL: I heard some people whispering, how old is this guy? So...
GLINTON: Mandel is 35, but by his own admission, he looks 19. The former Marine's youthful looks belie a prodigious fundraiser and a favorite of many on the right of the Republican Party. Despite riding a Republican wave into office as state treasurer in 2010, Mandel says this time he's the underdog.
MANDEL: We think we're sitting in a good spot to win this thing on Tuesday. I mean, when we started this campaign off, it was sort of a David-versus-Goliath-type fight. I mean, no one really gave us a shot because, you know, I'm running against a guy who's been running for political office since Richard Nixon was president. He's been in Washington for two decades. But we're doing it.
GLINTON: Mandel has made headway. He's pulled within a few points of incumbent Sherrod Brown.
DAVID COHEN: The fact is when this race started a couple years ago, nobody expected it to be competitive at all.
GLINTON: David Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Akron, says money, not Mandel, has changed this race.
COHEN: I should say there's a reason that the race is as close as it is, and that's the fact that, you know, a lot of outside groups have gotten into this race.
GLINTON: The amount spent from outside Ohio in this race is staggering - $50 million, about $35 million of which is being spent against Brown, though he's been able to maintain a lead. Mandel spent only a third as much on TV as outside groups spent against Brown. Here's Senator Brown speaking at a union hall in the town of Findlay in Northern Ohio.
SENATOR SHERROD BROWN: And it comes from these companies that want to outsource jobs to China because they don't like my legislation to level the playing field and stop China from cheating on currency and enforcing trade laws that end up creating jobs in Findlay, Ohio.
GLINTON: When asked by reporters, Brown is proud of the amount of money being spent against him.
BROWN: Far more than any state in the country, far more than this state has ever seen, it made this into a race just because they've attacked me with literally 45,000 ads in the last year.
GLINTON: So why so much money in this one race even if doesn't mean a clear defeat of Brown? David Cohen, the political scientist, says part of the reason is that Brown is especially despised by some on the right because of his liberal views. But Cohen says it's also about overall strategy.
COHEN: Ohio is a very important strategic battleground state. And so if you spend money on Josh Mandel's behalf, you know, the theory is its going to benefit Mitt Romney and may help the presidential as well. So you're basically getting more bang for the buck.
GLINTON: The fate of the presidential race and control of the Senate could rest on Ohio and how much bang there was in all those bucks. Sonari Glinton, NPR News.
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