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2020 is looking to be a pivotal year in politics. But this year's elections are about much more than the race for the White House. And the coronavirus pandemic is proving to be a complicating factor. WKSU, our colleagues at public radio stations across Ohio and the region and at NPR will bring you coverage of all the races from the national to the local level.

Political Experts Weigh in on Sherrod Brown Testing the Waters for a Presidential Bid

Sherrod Brown speaking
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has kicked off a tour of key presidential states.

Ohio’s senior U.S. Senator has launched a tour of key presidential primary and caucus  states, but says he hasn’t yet decided if he’ll seek the Democratic nomination in 2020. Some campaign experts in Ohio shared their thoughts on Sherrod Brown’s “Dignity of Work” tour.

Former Democratic National Committee chair David Wilhelm managed President Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, and likes Brown’s approach.

“I think he has the sharpest message of any potential candidate so far,” Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm said donors are looking at Brown, and while Brown isn’t the most liberal candidate in the field, Wilhelm said he has a clear pathway in the party.

“I think what's really intriguing about a potential Sherrod Brown candidacy is that he's a bridge. He's a bridge between the left of the party and the center of the party. He's a bridge between the past of the party and the future of the party,” Wilhelm said. “I don't think anybody can really challenge Sherrod Brown when it comes to his progressive values, his progressive record. He'll do quite fine.

“But I think if you're looking for somebody who can win in the Midwest, who out there fits that bill with quite the clarity that Sherrod Brown does? Not many,” Wilhelm said.

Democratic strategist Jerry Austin ran Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign, and has known Brown for more than 40 years.

“I did his first race for Secretary of State in 1982. I said to myself, ‘This guy could be president someday,’” Austin said. “And I thought a run for president would have happened long before this but maybe now's the time. And I would not write him off.”

And Austin said Brown has an appeal to people throughout the party.

“It's not about being liberal enough. I mean, it's about being able to appeal to the different sections of the Democratic primary voter, and then the general election voter about issues that are important,” Austin said. “And to categorize them as liberal or a right wing or left wing I think is misplaced. Here's who he is. Here's what he believes in. Here's where his record is. Call it what you want. That's his record.”

On the other side of the political fence sits Matt Borges, who was the chair of the Ohio Republican Party when Gov. John Kasich won the state’s presidential primary in 2016.

Borges has been an outspoken critic of President Trump. He said Brown could present a good option for Democrats and even frustrated Republicans, though he admitted Brown is not his brand of politics.

“I don't want to see us move in a different direction, but I do think that we need a candidate for president who maybe sets a little bit of a different tone and brings back some of the respect and dignity to the office,” Borges said.

And Borges said anyone who counts Brown completely out does so at their own peril.

“Many of us who have been in this business for a long time have lost to Sherrod Brown often enough to realize that you cannot take him for granted and you have to take him seriously,” Borges said. “So could he be a potential candidate who could who could shake things up in the upper Midwest. The path for Donald Trump to win in 2016 was winning Michigan Wisconsin Pennsylvania. I don't know that there's any path for him not to win Ohio again, but a candidate like Sherrod Brown could potentially peel some of those voters off and make it more challenging.”

Brown has said he’ll make a decision on whether he’ll run after his tour through Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina concludes.