COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, fresh from re-election to a third term, now says he’s considering a run for president in 2020.
If they want to make Republican Donald Trump a one-term president, Democrats should urge Brown, 66, to jump into the race.
They need a candidate who can beat Trump, who carried Ohio by more than 8 percentage points in 2016, at his own game — appealing to Americans who feel economically insecure, ignored and left behind.
That’s Brown, who’s capable of both bashing Trump and casting a vision of fatter pocketbooks for working Americans who’ve missed out on the benefits of a surging stock market.
Such a candidate isn’t likely to emerge from one of the Democrats’ bicoastal strongholds: Massachusetts, home of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, or California, home of Sen. Kamala Harris, to name two.
Two potential candidates who make the same kind of connection with disgruntled voters as Brown — former Vice President Joe Biden, turning 76 on Nov. 20, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 77, are just too old.
Texan Beto O’Rourke is appealing and charismatic, but running a close second, as he did in his Texas Senate race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz, isn’t the same as winning.
Brown doesn’t have to manufacture outrage at unfair trade agreements and economic policies that produce expanding wage gaps between the wealthy and everybody else. He’s been railing against them for decades.
He may be “progressive,” but he’s also a populist, capable of persuading voters that he feels their pain.
Brown also has won five statewide elections — three for the Senate and two for Ohio secretary of state — in a blustery battleground state that still is a microcosm of the country with factories, unions, corporate leaders, farms and racial and ethnic diversity.
Brown’s re-election victory this year was more impressive because Ohio is losing its purple tint and trending bright pink, if not red. He was the only Democrat to capture a non-judicial statewide office.
The Republican at the top of the winning ticket as governor-elect was Mike DeWine, the same Mike DeWine whom Brown knocked out of the U.S. Senate in 2006. It wasn’t a squeaker. Brown won by more than 12 percentage points.
He can appeal to both independents and even some Republicans.
Then there are the intangibles. Brown is resilient.
When he was defeated for re-election to a third term as Ohio secretary of state in 1990, he roared back in 1992 to win the first of seven terms in the U.S. House.
He’s a risk-taker, as he proved by giving up a safe House seat to take on and defeat DeWine in the 2006 Senate race.
His rumpled, gravelly voiced charisma suits him for the retail politics of the primary campaign trail.
Brown’s boyhood dream was to play baseball for the Cleveland Indians. He can recite statistics on RBIs and ERAs with the same intensity he brings to trade deficits and unemployment rates.
A doctor’s son, Brown has an undergraduate degree from Yale that should appeal to the Democratic elite but also has graduate degrees from the Ohio State University, which confirm him as a real Buckeye.
If he gets in the race, Brown’s 1986 divorce could become an issue. His Republican opponent this year, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, accused Brown of domestic violence. Brown’s wife at the time, however, denounced the GOP attack and has hosted fundraisers for her former husband.
If Brown were to win the nomination, Trump would be in an unlikely position to bring up the divorce. It’s hard to imagine any of the women who say they’ve been mistreated by the president raising money for his re-election.
In addition, Brown currently is happily remarried to popular syndicated columnist Connie Schultz. He may not be an instant front-runner, but he has the ability and personality to streak past the Democrats’ current collection of has-beens.
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.