Democrats may not want to hear that another older white guy is the best shot they have against Donald Trump in 2020.

But demographics are still facts, and Brown, from battleground Ohio, has the best shot to appeal to white, working men who abandoned Democrats in 2016, and now appear open to hearing from someone besides Trump.

Let’s look at the numbers: The 2016 presidential election was decided by about 77,000 votes out of than 136 million ballots cast. Put another way. 0.06 percent of the total votes for president tipped the electoral college in favor of the reality TV billionaire.

Trump won Pennsylvania by 0.7 percentage points (44,292 votes), Wisconsin by 0.7 points (22,748 votes), Michigan by 0.2 points (10,704 votes).

If Hillary Clinton — who won the popular vote by 3 million votes — had won all three states, she would have won the Electoral College 278 to 260.

And the Trump era would have been only speculation, not reality.

Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan was a big shift from 2012, when Barack Obama won Michigan by 9.5 points, Wisconsin by 6.7 points, and Pennsylvania by 5.2 points.

So, why did Clinton fail to replicate Obama’s success?

Simple. A handful of middle-and low-income Democratic white voters stayed home or voted for Trump. Clinton received less votes from white voters than Obama did, and white resentment remains as significant a driving force in American politics as ever.

The goal for Democrats in 2020 should be to flip the Midwest firewall states back blue. Do that and Supreme Court nominees are back under your control.

So who can best lead the ticket in 2020?

Of all the perspective Democratic nominees, Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio’s senior senator, makes the most sense.

Let’s look at facts:

  • Brown is about to be reelected in a big battleground state Trump carried easily two years ago.
  • Brown has raised $27.1 million for his re-election campaign, an Ohio record (even more than fundraising juggernaut Rob Portman’s historic $25.8 million haul in 2016).
  • Brown is an old-school progressive who has been unapologetic his entire career to advocate for liberal causes.
  • Brown has been vetted. He’s been around a long time, but doesn’t seem to be ancient (like other candidates we will not name).
  • Brown is a scrappy campaigner, with his loose tie and sleeves rolled up. Comfortable in front of big crowds and small.
  • Brown doesn’t want to run for president, making him even more appealing.
  • Brown is from Ohio. If Democrats win Ohio in 2020, they move the Trump’s out of the White House.

Not sold yet?

This is what I wrote about Sherrod Brown in my book Front Row Seat at the Circus:

“In fact, of all the politicians I’ve known through the years, Brown has the distinct honor of being the one who is easiest to detect telling a lie. Most senators and governors are highly skilled in being able to look you directly in the eye and tell you something you know for a fact is not accurate. John Kasich telling me over and over again he had no interest in running for president in 2016 comes to mind. Brown, on the other hand, will squirm in a chair and start sputtering his sentences, which is a dead giveaway for reporters.”

That’s right.

Sen. Sherrod Brown & Jim Heath discuss his campaign at The Ohio State University, 2012

Brown will never lie to us, because Brown is incapable of lying to us.

That may be a good thing, or bad, but there will never be much guessing on what’s really going on.

Yes, true, I also advocated that Brown be on Hillary Clinton’s ticket in 2016. It made sense then, it makes more sense now.

He made Clinton’s short list for vice president and, as it turned out, it’s a good thing for him that she didn’t pick him.

Brown also has another golden thing a candidate needs in today’s social media world.

From my book:

Brown is a scrappy longtime Ohio politician who had this fearlessness with the press. Even when things got tough—like when reporters learned he was more than four months delinquent in paying taxes on his Washington, D.C. apartment— Brown was always accessible.

Brown instinctively understands that when you get into a little political trouble, it’s best to be accessible and honest about it, and let political reporters move on to the next story.

Once in Ohio, before I interviewed Brown, he looked at me and asked, “Jim, how do you live life as a moderate?”

“You guys in the middle of the road are just going to keep getting hit by cars from both directions,” he said with a chuckle.

I’ve always loved that question coming from Brown because, while a very civil man, he has never apologized for being firmly on the left.

Even when “liberal” became a dreaded word for most politicians, Brown wore it with a badge of honor.

If progressives are truly interested in nominating someone in 2020 who can flip the firewall back to blue, they should be on the phone with Brown next month urging him to toss his hat in the ring.

 

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