Video: Decision 2006: Battleground Ohio

By Brian Williams Anchor & “Nightly News” managing editor
NBC News
updated 10/25/2006 7:26:01 PM ET 2006-10-25T23:26:01

Just as the leaves in this part of Ohio are just now changing over from green to red, it's quite possible Ohio is changing over from red to blue.

"I personally think we need a change," says Delaware, Ohio, resident Renee Rupp. "I definitely think it because of the war. We need a change."

In the town of Delaware, just outside Columbus, Bun's restaurant is so famous it’s allowed a sign high above the middle of the street. Inside, you'll find Republican Sen. Mike DeWine fighting for his political life.

He's a two-term senator, a father of eight, whose only entourage is his wife Fran, who famously hands out the family recipes in book form. Conservative to moderate, he voted for the war, but not always in lockstep with President Bush. He now sees the issue headed south, with the president's approval rating.

Is he a fan of George W. Bush?

"I think George W. Bush is a very engaging, very likeable person," says DeWine. "I think he has done a good job in many areas in the war on terror. He hasn't done everything right. The war in Iraq, clearly, there were major mistakes made."

And when you move north, and left, you find DeWine's opponent: Democratic U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown. He's a former Eagle Scout who majored in Russian studies at Yale. He's pro-abortion rights and anti-free trade. He doesn't think we should be in Iraq and doesn't like the way the war on terror is being fought.

"We tell our grandmothers to take their shoes off at the airport, yet only 10 percent of cargo containers coming into our ports is inspected and screened," says Brown. "So clearly, they've lost their focus on the war on terrorism. I want to protect my country, and I want to root out terrorism all around the world."

The two men don't get along. That was clear when they debated Oct. 1 on "Meet the Press."

"You are absolutely unbelievable!" said DeWine to Brown during the debate, when they were discussing congressional votes for body armor in Iraq. "I cannot believe you!" [ Broadcast transcript ]

The ad war here has also gotten nasty.

"Sherrod Brown, I don't trust you!" says a senior citizen in a “DeWine for Senate” ad that accuses Brown of not paying his unemployment taxes.

"What kind of man would use our troops to smear his opponents? DeWine!" says the voiceover in an ad paid for by “Friends of Sherrod Brown” defending the congressman against DeWine's claims that he voted against body armor for troops.

And they are very different. The Cleveland Plain Dealer said this is not a choice between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Karen Kassler is a journalist who covers politics in Ohio.

Is Mike DeWine saying to himself: What happened?

"He has to be," says Kassler, "and I think when you look at the polls what happened was the independents. The independents have turned Democratic, and that's changed the face of this contest. I think this state shows that nobody is safe, no seat is safe."

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