WASHINGTON -- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the unassuming, unabashed progressive who was a top target for Republicans this cycle, faced down $40 million in conservative attack ads -- and won.
"Karl Rove had a bad night," said Brown at a press conference on Wednesday morning, fresh off his victory over State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R).
Rove's group Crossroads GPS spent nearly $12 million in the Ohio Senate race, according to the Brown campaign. The group poured more money into the Ohio races than any other outside group. And despite that, both Brown and Obama handily won the state.
Brown said his victory sent a message to other Democrats who may have to go up against similar forces, that they can fight and win.
"The significance of this victory last night, yesterday, is that it might make some of my colleagues a little less intimidated by some of this outside money, and it might make the outside money -- as typically sleazy as it is -- a little more reluctant to come into a state," he said.
Brown also said it showed the need for campaign finance reform to "fix these awful kinds of campaign rules." The Democratic senator has been a critic of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to corporate and anonymous spending from outside groups, and said he would continue to press for reform in the Senate.
Not only was his win a victory for the middle class, said Brown, but it was also a defeat for the politics borne out of that decision. The Columbus Dispatch reported that "Brown, 59, of Avon, won despite more than $60 million spent against him, including $40 million by outside groups -- led by nearly $12 million from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS," in contrast to the roughly $14 million the The Center For Responsive Politics estimates that outside groups spent on his behalf.
"It doesn't mean that the door's shut and it will never happen again, it just means it was pretty discredited in Ohio last night," said Brown. "That's really good news for the electorate -- Democrats, Republicans and independents. It's good news for everybody."
Brown spent most of the conference call with the press sticking to his message of promoting middle-class Ohioans and describing his work in the Senate on economic issues. He continued to promote the benefits to Ohio from the auto bailout, which figured significantly in the race against Mandel. He also cited his work on behalf of veterans and agriculture issues as contributing to his reelection. Brown said Obama's victory helped his race, but tried to steer questions about the president's role back to his own record.
Brown largely avoided discussing Mandel during the press conference, saying only that the two had a polite conversation Tuesday evening, during which he wished the 35-year-old Republican and his wife, Ilana, the best. The race between Mandel and Brown was one of the most contentious in the nation, with Mandel accusing Brown of being "un-American" for supporting the auto bailout. Brown fired back by criticizing Mandel's record as state treasurer, during which he missed 14 months of Board of Deposit meetings, and for receiving six "Pants on Fire" awards from Politifact, the most of any candidate in Ohio history.
"It was not unfriendly, and it was to the point," Brown said of his conversation with Mandel after the race was called.
In the end, Brown continued to focus on the need for campaign finance reform and said he doubted that voters would miss all the negative campaigning any time soon.
"I think voters will, in a funny sort of way, welcome beer ads, car ads and detergent ads," he said.