When Josh Mandel showed up at a College Republican phone bank in Independence, Ohio, he looked like he could sit down behind a fold-up table and join about a dozen students who had been making calls all afternoon. Yet the purpose of his visit on November 6 wasn’t to enter their ranks. Instead, he meant to rally these GOP troops two days before a statewide election. So he stood before them, ramrod straight, and gave a short speech on why hard work pays off in politics. As Mandel finished, Gary Joseph Wilson, a law student at Case Western, raised his hand. “How old are you?” he asked. Mandel turned the question around: “How old do you think I am?” Wilson thought about it for a second. “Twenty-four?” he guessed.
Wilson was wrong by a decade. Mandel is 34 — and as state treasurer, he is one of Ohio’s senior Republican officeholders. He just doesn’t look it. About an hour earlier, as he canvassed a neighborhood in the Cleveland suburb of Rocky River, he introduced himself to Crista Moeller as she watched kids run around her backyard. “Do you get carded all the time?” she asked, with a smile. Mandel, experienced at this kind of banter, gave one of his stock replies: “By the time I’m 35, I hope to be shaving.”