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0000017a-3b40-d913-abfe-bf44a4f90000Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 16 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time.

Commentary: Could One Of These 26 Politicians Be The Next POTUS?

2020 presidential candidates
From top L-R: Emily Prechti; Gage Skidmore (2); Wikimedia; AP; Phil Roeder; Wikimedia; Courtesy
From top left: Cory Booker; Jeff Flake; Martin O'Malley; Kamala Harris; John Kasich; Bernie Sanders; Mitt Romney; and Sherrod Brown.

No one can accuse Ohio's newly re-elected U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of letting the moss grow under his feet.

Less than a week after he won a third term by single-digits over a relatively weak opponent in Republican Jim Renacci, the 66-year-old Brown was talking openly to reporters about a possible run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

"My victory showed a progressive can win in a state Trump won by almost double digits,'' Brown told Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles this week.

"And you can do it by speaking for the dignity of all work. All kinds of work, whether you punch a clock or swipe a card or you work for salaries and tips or you are raising children,'' Brown said. "But you can do it without compromising on women's rights or civil rights or LGBTQ and you can do it without caving in to Wall Street or the gun lobby or, frankly, to Donald Trump."

Now, that sounds like the rhetoric of a politician who can appeal to the progressive wing of the party, the party of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, either one of whom could also become a candidate for president.

Combine that with his populist views on international trade and tariffs – not far from what Trump has been saying – and his devotion to American workers (he won't wear a suit that wasn't made in the United States), and you have a guy who could appeal to a lot of the voters in the chronically poor rural, small town areas of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, where good jobs are hard to come by, and who abandoned Hillary Clinton and the Democrats and adopted Trump as the man who would lead them to the Promised Land.

Brown is a smart fellow. He may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night. He knows that the quest for the Democratic nomination will begin before the end of this year and that the field will be, as someone once said, yuge.

He knows, too, that Trump is not universally beloved among Republican voters and could face GOP candidates challenging him for the nomination.

The Iowa caucuses are less than 15 months away. The first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary comes shortly after that. Potential candidates are already flowing into those states for rubber-chicken dinners and meet-and-greet events.

I believe a field of at least 20 candidates on the Democratic side is not out of the question. Some will last about as long as a moth buzzing into a hot front porch light on a summer night.  

But take a look at the some of the potential candidates. This is not a complete list, mind you, but a list of those I think most likely to run.

And it is always good to remember that the person who ultimately wins the Democratic nomination may be someone none of us are thinking about now.

So here we go:

The Democrats

Bernie Sanders

The now-77-year-old Vermont senator became a sensation in 2016, putting up an aggressive challenge to Hillary Clinton and bringing in millions of Generation X and Generation Z people who hadn't been engaged in politics before. Early polling in New Hampshire has him way out front.

Joe Biden 

Like Sanders, the former Vice President is 77. Has he slowed down? Not that you would notice. And like Sherrod Brown, he has great appeal to the blue-collar workers in places like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania – places the Democrats desperately need to win back. He may be a long-shot, but, rhetorically speaking, there is probably no one who could take it to Trump more effectively than "Uncle Joe."

Kamala Harris 

The former California attorney general became a U.S. Senator earlier this year and almost immediately made an impression, using her committee positions to parboil and then grill the Trump administration and now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh. She also left a lot of political chits around the country by traveling the nation this fall to campaign for Democratic House and Senate candidates.

Elizabeth Warren 

If there is anyone who could get under the skin of Donald Trump, it would be the Massachusetts senator, who is clearly despised by the president. I would pay good money to see an Elizabeth Warren-Donald Trump debate.

Martin O'Malley 

The former Maryland governor ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016, but his progressive message got lost in the Bernie Sanders wave. He's been making the rounds of the early primary and caucus states, a sure sign he is thinking about trying it again.

Cory Booker 

The New Jersey senator and former mayor of Newark, N.J., has been talked about as a potential presidential candidate since his political career began. He's been stumping this fall in states all over the nation, including Iowa, the first caucus state, where he gave a speech that won rave reviews.

Kirsten Gillibrand 

The U.S. Senator from New York has said she has no interest in running, but she has visited early primary and caucus states such as Nevada and Iowa. She has loudly condemned politicians accused of sexual misconduct and led the movement among Senate Democrats to have Sen. Al Franken resign. She also wants to abolish ICE.

Jeff Merkley 

In 2016, he was the only senator to endorse Bernie Sanders for president. Earlier this year, he released a series of videos that went viral on opposing the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. He, too, has visited all the early primary and caucus states.

The Republicans

Yes, there are Republicans who might challenge Trump for the 2020 GOP presidential nomination.

One of them lives nearby in Westerville, Ohio.

John Kasich 

With this year's Ohio gubernatorial election over, Kasich has one foot out of the door of the Ohio governor's office. In fact, since the 2016 presidential election, he has spent nearly as much time in New Hampshire – a state that showed him some love in its 2016 GOP presidential primary – as he has in Ohio. He clearly can't stand the sight of Trump and wants to run in 2020 – either for the GOP nomination or as an independent. There has been some talk of Kasich teaming up with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to form a third-party team in 2020. Kasich, as always, is keeping his options open.

Jeff Flake 

Probably the most out-spoken critic of Trump in the Senate, and his consistent opposition cost him any chance of winning a GOP primary in Arizona this year, so he decided to retire from the Senate. He has hinted at making a run in 2020. Does he have a chance? It would be tough – liberals don't trust him and conservatives have had enough Tf him and his Trump-bashing.

Ted Cruz 

There was some bad blood between the Texas senator and Trump after Trump won the nomination in a race where he made some bizarre (and completely untrue) statements about the Texan - such as his memorable line that Cruz's father was somehow mixed up in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But they seem to have let bygones be bygones, and Cruz just won a tough re-election campaign. Still, I'm guessing Cruz continues to have the presidential bug and would not be surprised to see him jump in. 

Mitt Romney 

The 2012 Republican presidential nominee was elected to a U.S. Senate seat from Utah last week. He's been critical of Trump on many occasions. And, now, he is seen as something of a senior statesman in the party. His stock has clearly risen since being defeated by President Obama six years ago.

Ben Sasse 

The senator from Nebraska has developed a reputation as one of the most articulate and thoughtful Trump critics on the GOP side. Many in the party see him as a legitimate candidate – a dark horse who could emerge from the pack.

The above, of course, are just some of the potential candidates for the job of POTUS.

Vote in our poll below and let us know who you prefer. And, yes, there is plenty of time to change your mind.

politically speaking bio
Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

Read more "Politically Speaking" here

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.