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Politically Speaking is WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson's column that examines the world of politics and how it shapes the world around us.

Analysis: Are you a Trump voter in Ohio? Democrat Sherrod Brown wants your vote

a closeup of a man speaking into a microphone while pointing a finger
Alex Brandon
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill, Dec. 6, 2023, in Washington.

If you are an Ohio voter planning to vote for Donald Trump in this fall's presidential election, Sherrod Brown has his eyes on you.

The incumbent Democratic senator from Ohio is in a tough re-election campaign and he will take help anywhere he can get it.

Even from the MAGA crowd.

The ancient political practice of ticket-splitting, where voters vote for both Democrats and Republicans on their ballots, has been a factor in Ohio politics for as long as most people can remember; and Brown has dipped into that well before.

Bernie Moreno, in a red shirt, waves to a crowd
Joe Maiorana
Bernie Moreno is acknowledged at a rally with former President Donald Trump at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, on April 23, 2022, in Delaware, Ohio.

Ohio's Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Cleveland car dealer Bernie Moreno, is, as you might imagine, endorsed by Trump, but he is an unknown quantity to many Ohio voters, even many MAGA Republicans.

Trump has won Ohio's electoral votes in the past two presidential elections and the conventional wisdom is that he is likely to do so again.

Ohio voters are a fickle bunch; they have regularly switched back and forth between the parties in presidential elections over many decades. Ask Barack Obama, who won Ohio twice before Trump arrived on the scene.

"In Ohio, there is very little chance of Biden winning," said Mark R. Weaver, a long-time Republican political consultant based in Ohio. "Sherrod Brown would gladly take the Trump votes if he can get them."

Tuesday, Brown held a Zoom press conference with Ohio reporters in which he was asked if his campaign is focusing on winning over Trump voters.

His answer, while not direct, made it clear he understands the importance of drawing in GOP voters.

"When I am campaigning, I don't ask people if they are Trump voters or Biden voters," Brown said. "I represent all working people. I campaign for all voters."

ANALYSIS: Sherrod Brown makes a pitch to GOP voters

And in a high-octane race that could decide which party will control the U.S. Senate, Brown is going after MAGA voters hard, hammer and tong.

And national Democratic Party leaders are fine with that. Whatever it takes to win.

If you watch any TV at all in Ohio's 12 media markets, you have likely seen a 30-second ad produced by Duty and Honor, an independent expenditures PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The ad features a man named Scott, a Marine Corps veteran and retired police officer who lost his son to opioid addiction.

"He wrote a bill that Donald Trump signed to crack down on drugs at the border," Scott says. "Sherrod's work will prevent more families from having to go through what we did."

Recently, Congress passed a law that will make it more difficult for fentanyl to enter the U.S.

two men lean into to talk to each other
Manuel Balce Ceneta
Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, left, and Tim Scott, R-S.C. talk during a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs hearing, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, on Capitol Hill, in Washington.

The FEND Off Act is a piece of legislation on which Brown partnered with Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who has been angling to be Trump's vice presidential running mate.

Last week, Trump visited the Capitol to meet with congressional Republicans, his first trip to the Capitol since Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to stop Joe Biden from becoming president.

Nonetheless, Trump got a warm reception from Senate and House Republicans, who fawned over him and told him what he wanted to hear.

RELATED: There's a lot at stake on Ohio's November ballot. What to start researching now

One of them, Sen. Lindsey Graham, told the media after the meeting that he urged Trump to get directly involved in the Senate races in Montana and Ohio, the only two states where incumbent Democrats — Jon Tester and Brown — are running for re-election in states Trump won in 2020.

Pick up one of them, Graham said, along with the open seat in West Virginia, where conservative Democrat Joe Manchin is retiring, and the GOP would flip control of the Senate.

"It is telling that those three — Tester, Brown and Manchin — are the three Democrats who have shown they can win across party lines,'' said David Niven, political science professor at the University of Cincinnati.

"Over the past 10 years, Democrats in Ohio are one for 31 in statewide races," Niven said. "That one is Sherrod Brown. And it is because he is able to get Republicans to vote for him."

Weaver said he doesn't believe ticket-splitting has the impact it once had.

"We are in a very much divided country right now," Weaver said. "People on both sides have hardened their positions, on the left and on the right.

"Sherrod Brown can try to re-imagine himself, but he has been drifting to the left while Ohio has been drifting to the right," Weaver said.

Trump himself said pretty much the same thing about Brown when he appeared at a Moreno rally in Vandalia in March.

ANALYSIS: Reproductive rights, settled by Ohioans last fall, is a key issue in Senate race

"He pretends he's my best friend, until he gets in and then he goes radical left all the time," Trump said. "You know, if you listen to his commercials, he sounds like he's running with Trump. He's not."

Niven, though, says Brown can appeal to Democratic and Republican voters alike because they know who and what Brown is.

"If you look at all the Republican statewide officeholders in Ohio, they seem like the same person," Niven said. "They don't stand out as personalities. Sherrod Brown is always Sherrod Brown," Niven said. "He doesn't change. And when he says he is on the side of working people, they believe him."

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