John White , professor, politics, was mentioned in New York Times columnist David Brooks' piece about the upcoming Senate race in Ohio. Brooks draws on a recent report by White titled "This Year All Politics are National - What Makes the 2006 Midterm Elections Unique" that appeared on Zogby International . See Brooks' column below.

2008: The Prequel

From: The New York Times Date: Oct. 12, 2006 Author: David Brooks There are always a lot of retirees at campaign events in places like Mansfield, Ohio, and the most telling question you can ask them is: Where are your kids living?

Most of the factories have shut down in Mansfield. The old Westinghouse plant sits silent and archaic like a medieval castle near the center of town. And the retirees have seen their kids go off somewhere else. If they've gone to college, they're in New York, California, Georgia or Arizona. They're Christmas Ohioans. At holiday time they visit home.

This is the economic backdrop to the most important political race in the country, the Senate campaign between Sherrod Brown, a Democrat now in the House, and Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent. It's important because each candidate comes from the most vibrant strain in his own party. Brown is a full-bore economic populist. DeWine is an independent McCainiac conservative. In two years, the national parties will be talking in just these ways, and we're seeing a preview of that battle today.

Sherrod Brown is a natural political animal, with the ability to dominate the space around him. At a campaign rally in Mansfield, he pulls a chair into the center of the room while others are speaking, so everyone can see him listening and reacting. He wears a wrinkled, cheap suit, and his raspy voice and plain manners evoke the local diner or union hall more than his alma mater, Yale University.

Terrorism and national security issues don't come up spontaneously around Brown. He focuses on the problem that is at the core of his career and mission: the hollowing out of Ohio's manufacturing base and the slow destruction of a way of life.

''They've sold out our country and betrayed the middle class,'' he says of the Republicans and the big corporations who worked together to write the tax laws, the energy bill and the prescription drug bill.

He vociferously opposes free trade. In his defining TV ad, he stands in front of a closed factory and blasts DeWine for supporting trade agreements that cost America jobs. His lapel pin shows a canary in a cage, a symbol of his solidarity with coal miners and workers everywhere. At a time when many Democrats are merely against things, Brown has a coherent approach to globalization and stagnant wages.

DeWine is Brown's opposite. He's short and unassuming, the least senatorial-looking man in the U.S. Senate. When he ambles modestly into a rally at Rocky River, almost nobody notices. As Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor, sings his praises, DeWine slips offstage to the back of the room. He grabs some chicken, finds a table and tucks meditatively into his dinner. Only one person at the table even looks up.

And yet he's one of the toughest and most widely respected senators. Anti-abortion and pro-tax cut, he angered his evangelical base by supporting the Gang of 14 compromise on judicial filibusters. He voted against the president's last budget because he thought it had the wrong priorities on children's health (he lost a daughter in a car accident). On the stump he touts law after law he has co-sponsored with liberal Democrats.

He wasn't in Congress when Nafta passed, but he rattles off statistics on how many Ohio jobs derive from exports and global trade. If Ohio's going to rebound, he says, its going to come from skills and entrepreneurialism not trade protectionism.

In a normal year, DeWine could probably hold off Brown's formidable challenge. DeWine, who is incapable of grandstanding, embodies the trans-partisan, conversational politics the country longs for.

But this year he faces an uphill fight. Voter frustration with Republican rule blots out the distaste many may have for liberal Democrats. DeWine has tried to portray Brown as an out-of-step liberal, to little effect.

More important, President Bush's polarizing political strategy has made it hard for independent Republicans to distinguish themselves from their party's national brand. As the Catholic University political scientist John K. White points out, we seem to be amid a parliamentary election this year, with voters making decisions about national parties, not local candidates. There is a yawning 19-point gap between those who say they like DeWine personally and those who say they plan to vote for him.

Ohio is crucial to winning the presidency. If Brown wins this year, he'll be the model for Democrats nationally. If DeWine pulls this out, Republican will copy him. This is what politics looks like as conservatism wanes: feisty economic liberals against independent, party-bucking Republicans

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