COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Democrat Sherrod Brown won re-election to the Senate on Tuesday after one of the most expensive and closely watched match-ups in the country.
Despite a strong challenge with support from conservative outside groups, Brown topped Republican challenger Josh Mandel, the state treasurer and a U.S. Marine veteran who did two tours in Iraq.
On the other side of the Ohio River, West Virginia voters chose to send Sen. Joe Manchin back to Capitol Hill for a full six-year term.
A Democrat like Obama, Manchin campaigned as an independent voice for the state who has disagreed with the president over such issues as coal, federal spending and the national debt. Courting the tea party vote, GOP nominee John Raese argued that Manchin has helped the Democrats maintain a majority in the Senate that has allowed Obama to pursue his agenda.
"I think the people know me. They know that I fight for West Virginia, and I love every human being in this state," Manchin said. "I love this country. We need to come together."
In Ohio, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Crossroads GPS and other outside groups spent more in Ohio than any other state, criticizing Brown's support for President Barack Obama's stimulus and health care overhaul.
Sen. Patty Murray, chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Ohio voters saw through the attacks.
"No one fights harder for working people in this country than Sherrod Brown," she said in a statement.
Mandel, 35, called Brown a career politician in a race that grew increasing rancorous as Election Day approached. He sought to turn Brown's decades in office against him, telling voters he wanted to make Washington more accountable.
Brown, 59, made the auto industry bailout a key campaign issue, highlighting Mandel's opposition to the rescue that affected about 800,000 Ohio jobs.
Brown got three out of four votes from the majority of Ohioans who agreed with giving federal money to General Motors and Chrysler, according to preliminary exit poll results. Union households were also decisively behind Brown, who won the urban vote overwhelmingly and the split the suburban vote.
He won despite a big dip in support among older voters, independents and Catholics.
Job experience was a central theme in the race. Brown accused Mandel of ignoring his duties at the state treasury, while Mandel said Brown was too entrenched and represented "everything that's wrong with Washington."
Brown began his political career in 1974 as the youngest state representative in Ohio history, and went on to serve as secretary of state and congressman.
Mandel was elected to his first statewide office in 2010 after stints as a student body president at Ohio State University, Cleveland-area city councilman and state legislator. His military experience factored in garnering 2008 presidential nominee John McCain's endorsement.
But his Senate run subjected Mandel's actions to tough scrutiny.
He faced a steady stream of criticism throughout the campaign: for hiring friends and political operatives into his state office, for being a no-show to his official state duties, and for accepting donations later targeted in an FBI probe.