The line of the night was delivered by Sen. Sherrod Brown, the incumbent Democrat candidate running to keep his seat in the Senate.
Brown fired off the following gem, in responding to a story Republican challenger Congressman Jim Renacci told during one of his responses to a question about compromise in Washington or the lack thereof.
“Congressmen are always going to show up to eat,” said Brown after Renacci attempted to show that he routinely brings the major political parties together over morning sustenance.
That’s about as lighthearted as the evening got. The rest was a contentious contest between two men who want to represent you in the U.S. Senate for the next six years.
In his opening statement Brown said he hoped the evening would be about policies and issues, while Renacci promised it would show the two men have different visions for the State of Ohio.
The debate itself was held at the WOSU studio in the Fawcett Center at the Ohio State University.
Its format was slightly different than others we have seen this election cycle, allowing for the candidates to ask their opponent a single question and giving their opponent 90 seconds to respond with no rebuttal; the format also allowed for the journalists moderating and on the panel to ask follow-up questions should they feel the original question they asked was not answered by the candidate.
This follow-up question opportunity was used five times in the debate, once with Brown and four times with Renacci.
Brown had the opportunity to ask Renacci the first question at the beginning of the debate right after opening statements; Renacci was able to open the second half of the debate with his question to Brown.
The question Brown asked Renacci was about policy, staying true to his opening statement of wanting to keep things about the issues. He asked what Renacci thought Brown and fellow US Senator from Ohio Rob Portman had done wrong in working together to address the opioid problem the State and the Nation face, pointing out that Renacci had attacked him on his efforts.
Renacci did not answer Brown’s question instead opting to explain what he thought about the topic and what he has done in his capacity about it.
When it was Renacci’s turn to ask his question he went back to a personal issue between Brown and his ex-wife that had occurred and been resolved decades ago.
When asked afterward if he intended to do this, Renacci said he made it very clear that he was indeed trying to get his opponent to address his past marital issues when he asked Brown if he believed that Senators, Representatives to Congress, and even public officials should be disqualified from holding office if they have a record of domestic violence or sexual assault.
This has been an area that Renacci has been targeting for several weeks now, and he isn’t the first politician to take this route.
It has also prompted Brown’s ex-wife to call Renacci out for attempting to use what happened between them as a way to impugn Brown’s character. She has publicly supported Brown on this occasion and in the past when others have attempted to go down this road against him.
Brown, for his part, kept his cool when asked about the personal question issuing a relatively curt and pointed rebuke to his opponent before exclaiming Renacci should be ashamed of himself.
Renacci isn’t backing down though, and doubled down on the attack in a post-debate interview, and we are likely to continue to hear him use the tactic for the remaining two and a half weeks until the election.
Following his question to Brown, Renacci was asked if he felt so strongly about it; should his disqualification criteria apply to President Trump who has had marital problems in the past as well.
Renacci refused to give a simple yes or no answer, instead dancing around the topic insinuating an affirmative without ever actually saying yes. He mentioned that if he was running against Trump in 2020 the issue may be something he would use in a campaign against him.
Throughout the debate the candidates answered questions about climate change, the federal deficit, and increasing the gas tax to name just a few topics.
In describing Renacci’s shortcomings Brown focused on his opponent’s record. Renacci focused on Brown’s tenure in the Senate and attempted to make several claims about a connection between lobbyists, campaign money, and Brown.
There was no handshake between the candidates before or after the debate.
A third and final debate is scheduled to be held in six days at the Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.