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Sherrod 2020? Ohio Senator Discusses Possible Presidential Bid

Sen. Sherrod Brown
Andrew Harnik
Associated Press

Sen. Sherrod Brown, one of just three Democrats who won statewide in Ohio last week, says that his next step in politics may include running for president.

Brown says being president was never his life’s goal.

“I didn’t really grow up dreaming of being president of the United States,” Brown says. “I dreamed about playing center fielder for the Indians, but I think that time has passed.”

Brown won re-election Tuesday, against Republican Rep. Jim Renacci, by six points. He says he’s being urged to run for president in 2020 and is seriously thinking about it.

“My victory showed a progressive can win in a state that Trump won by almost double digits. And you can do it by speaking out for the dignity of all work… all kinds of work, whether you punch a clock or swipe a badge or work for salaries or tips or whether you are raising children,” Brown says. “But you can do it without compromising on women’s rights or civil rights or LGBTQ, and you can do it without caving to Wall Street or the gun lobby or, frankly, to Donald Trump.”

If Brown decides to run, University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven says Brown could do something important.

“He could speak the language of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and put the Democratic coalition back together," Niven says.

Niven says Brown’s emphasis on values of working people makes him attractive to people in Midwest red states, but he’s still an acceptable choice for blue states too.

“His record is actually perfectly fine for the Democratic base across the country,” Niven says. “It’s just not what he’s defined by, but he’s figured out that if he is defined on issues of working people that he can win Ohio, and while he’s in the Senate, he can vote any way he wants on those other issues.”

Ohio State University political science professor Paul Beck agrees Brown’s strength is his ability to connect with Democrats of different background. But Beck says the field for president is likely to be crowded.

“He may take a look at that and say well, the odds are so low that any one of us is going to win that I would simply rather not do it,” Beck says. “He is not personally wealthy the way some candidates are, so there’s no way he can put his own money into a race, and it is going to take a lot of money to be able to win that nomination.”

Brown was the only non-judicial Democrat to win statewide in this election – Republicans swept every other statewide office. Beck says that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have coattails.

“He was not at the top of the ticket. The top of the ticket in an off-year, midterm race is the candidate for governor or the gubernatorial race,” Beck says. “And usually, the way coattails work is you look at the top of the ticket, decide how you want to vote there, and basically cast that same party vote as you go down the ticket.”

If Brown decides to run for president, he will likely face some uncomfortable questions from divorce records from his first wife in the 1980s, something Rep. Jim Renacci brought up often in the Senate race. Brown’s ex-wife, Lark Recchie, has supported Brown’s political aspirations for the past 20 years and held fundraisers to help his campaigns.

Hillary Clinton’s team vetted Brown to be her Vice Presidential candidate back in 2016, but chose fellow Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia instead. Brown says he’s now talking with his supporters and family about the possibility of running for president in two years.

If he’s going to do it, though, Beck and Niven say it’s important for him to give himself some time to prepare.