If President Bush's low poll numbers and the Jack Abramoff scandal have created a tough climate for Republicans across the country, Ohio's is tougher still. Republican Gov. Bob Taft has pleaded no contest to ethics charges for failing to report golf trips and other gifts, and a June poll has his approval rating at 26 percent. Top state GOP fundraisers and officials are embroiled in a scandal in which millions of dollars in a state workers' fund went to a shady investment deal in rare coins. If all that hasn't made Sen. Mike DeWine's re-election bid hard enough, he is also facing his first serious challenge since coming to Washington in 1994, from Cleveland-area Rep. Sherrod Brown. DeWine is considered a maverickhe broke with his party to oppose oil drilling in Alaska and was an early supporter of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrantsbut Brown is trying to paint him as a lap dog to President Bush on issues like the Iraq war. A six-term congressman, Brown has been a fierce critic of the war from the start. He has also been an outspoken foe of free-trade deals like the recent Central American Free Trade Agreement. In a state that has lost 175,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, that message could find traction, though the Ohio GOP is painting Brown as "way out in left field." In a June poll, Brown trailed DeWine by 10 percentage points.