(Note: The writers are answering the question: “Is Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown the Democrats’ best hope to beat Trump in 2020?”)
COLUMBUS, Ohio —Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio says he’s not interested in seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 and most political observers take him at his word.
Brown currently is focused, as he should be, on getting re-elected to a third Senate term this November. Yet if he hears the siren calls of a growing number of Democrats seeking the strongest candidate, he may be hard-pressed not to enter the presidential race.
If Democrats truly want to make Donald Trump a one-term president, they had better pick a Democrat like Brown, with proven appeal to a broad cross-section of voters in a battleground state.
Brown has been elected statewide four times — twice as secretary of state and twice to the Senate — in a state that includes farmers, factory workers, corporate big shots, racial and ethnic diversity, a slice of Appalachia and other key components of America’s civic smorgasbord.
He also lost one statewide race, for a third term as secretary of state in 1990, but he didn’t quit. Two years later he won the first of seven elections to the U.S. House.
At 65, he’s still vigorous, although probably too old to fulfill a boyhood dream of playing baseball for the Cleveland Indians. And he’s certainly different from those Democrats already seeking the presidential nomination.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a fiery, articulate champion of the underdog. Critics say she often comes across like a scolding schoolmarm and warn that she’d likely do about as well in swing states as the last two presidential failures from Massachusetts — Michael Dukakis and John Kerry.
Among the others, former Vice President Joe Biden, 75, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, 76, probably are just too old.
Democrats need a candidate who can do more than bash Trump. He or she must cast a vision that promises better days ahead for all Americans — especially those who feel left behind.
Brown was a thoughtful opponent of “free trade” with votes against agreements such as NAFTA long before Trump began insulting Mexicans. Nor is he a one-note wonder on the economy.
And he has the political savvy to mount a bipartisan crusade for causes that he embraces. Currently he co-chairs the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans with Sen. Orrin Hatch, the conservative Utah Republican.
Leadership requires taking risks and Brown has shown he’s willing to take them. But Democratic presidential candidates can be great on the issues and still get clobbered unless they know how to campaign.
Brown has a rumpled, gravel-voiced charisma and dogged determination that helped him unseat two-term Republican Sen. Mike DeWine in 2006.
Despite his Yale education, Brown long ago learned to drop the “g” at the end of words like “running” and make other speech adjustments to sound just like the voters in any area of a diverse state like Ohio .
The Democrats need something else in their presidential candidate — someone who knows how to run and win against a candidate who has made personal demonization of his opponents the key to electoral success.
Trump’s opponents in the 2016 Republican primaries never figured out how to do it and neither did Hillary Clinton.
Brown was an Eagle Scout but he’s no goody two-shoes on the campaign trail. He has run and won twice against opponents who took the Trump approach of harsh verbal attacks.
If Brown wins re-election in Ohio this November, Democrats should ask him to coach a candidate on how to stand up to somebody like Trump. Or maybe they should just try to talk him into changing his mind.
William Hershey is a former Washington correspondent for the Akron Beacon Journal and a former Columbus bureau chief for the Akron Beacon Journal and Dayton Daily News.