U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s supporters gave him a send-off Wednesday night before his tour of early presidential primary and caucus states.
Brown hasn’t officially launched a bid for the Democratic nomination, but has been working to insert his voice into the party’s growing presidential conversation. His “Dignity of Work” tour has stops scheduled in Iowa through Saturday, with visits expected in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Boosted by his reelection victory last year in a state that backed Donald Trump, Brown said Democrats don’t need to choose between appealing to progressives or to working class voters.
“For us, it’s not either-or,” Brown said. “You govern by speaking to progressive values and fighting for workers, you campaign that way, you win that way. That’s why we will always do both. We speak to our progressive values, we talk to workers about their lives.”
He said President Trump espoused “phony populism,” and accused the president of failing to help workers laid off from the GM plant in Lordstown.
“When work has dignity, our country has a stronger middle class, which everyone benefits. But Donald Trump simply doesn’t respect the dignity of work, pure and simple.”
Columnist Connie Schultz, Brown’s wife, introduced him with a story about the day he first met her father, a retired union utility worker. She said her father called Brown “us in a tie.”
Brown spoke at Supply Side USA, a packaging manufacturer in Brunswick. He took part in the facility’s grand opening in 2016.
He won reelection last year by about seven percentage points, a rare bright spot for Ohio Democrats in 2018. But that margin was tighter than his first senate victory, a 12-point win in 2006. Brown has said he’ll make a decision on a presidential run in March.
In a statement provided to Cleveland.com, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman said Brown “risks abandoning his own Ohio constituents” with his tour, adding that the visits have “nothing to do with fighting for hard-working families, and everything to do with Brown’s own political ambitions”
Tessa Xuan, one supporter at the rally, said she believes Brown is seen as someone who can win in 2020. But even if he’s not, she said, he should still run.
“People talk about, is he viable, is he not viable,” she said. “I don’t care if he’s viable. I think he should run, because when you run for an office, you contribute to the discussion, you get people mobilized, you get people engaged in our democracy.”
Peggy Stopak said she’d like to see Brown run for president, though she admitted he’ll face a difficult primary field.
Asked whether Democrats should define their campaign in opposition to Trump, she answered quickly.
“Definitely,” she said. “Because I don’t particularly care for the man. I just said, I like Sherrod, I think he understands us. I don’t think Trump has a clue.”