WASHINGTON — Sen. Sherrod Brown, who won a third term last week to represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate, said Monday he is considering running for president in 2020.

Brown, a Democrat who won his election Tuesday by about 6 percentage points, said he’s hearing "sort of a crescendo" of interest in him seeking the White House, be it through his wife Connie Schultz’s Facebook page, or through calls or emails. "We’re hearing it increase, so we’re thinking about it as a result," he said, adding, "we’re not close to saying yes."

While Democrats won back the majority in the House last Tuesday, in Ohio Republicans swept the statewide seats and maintained their stronghold on the U.S. House seats in the state. Brown was the exception, despite an often harsh campaign where Republicans brought up his messy and contentious divorce from his first wife. In particular, they highlighted a restraining order she sought against Brown and allegations that he’d physically pushed her aside when entering her home.

But that divorce was decades ago, and his first wife and Brown have mended fences to the point that she cut a campaign ad defending her ex-husband. She’s also hosted fundraisers for Brown and criticized Republicans for using her family life for campaign attacks.

Brown said voters in Ohio ultimately ignored the decades-old divorce because “voters in Ohio trust me.” He said he found irony in the fact that his opponent “attacked my family repeatedly even though I am fighting for Ohio families.”

He admitted a campaign against Trump could be similarly nasty, but he and his family are prepared for the possibility that the divorce could be used again.

Brown, speaking hours after an appearance on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe," said regardless of whether he runs, he wants Democrats who are seeking the White House to use lessons from his race as a blueprint for how to run in the industrial Midwest.

"I respect the dignity of work, and I think that’s what Washington forgets about," said Brown on "Morning Joe."

He said his campaign "was about workers and the direction we need to go," and said his successful campaign proved a progressive candidate could win even in a red state such as Ohio by focusing on workers.

Jennifer Duffy of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report said if Brown runs, he’ll have to distinguish himself in what promises to be a crowded field.

“Here’s the problem,” she said. “Everybody’s running. We have this list and in some respects he’s got some catching up to do, even among his Senate colleagues.”

While Brown focused solely on his re-election, other Democrats running for re-election, such as Amy Klobuchar in Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts were running for re-election while still traveling the country raising money for a potential national bid.

On the upside, “it’s anybody’s game.” And Brown, who has been in politics for decades, is still a new face on the national scene, because he’s only served statewide.

David Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron, said the prospect of Brown considering a run "makes a whole lot of sense."

"If he were to secure the nomination, Ohio would absolutely be in play which is pretty enormous consider the 18 electoral votes it brings along with it," he said.

Brown, he said, "has proven throughout the years he knows how to win elections in purple states like Ohio."

And he does it, he said, without hiding the fact that he is a progressive.

"He is a progressive but he's also a populist," he said. "He knows how to talk to folks on all ends of the political spectrum and people respect him because he really is authentic."

"In a normal time I think Sherrod Brown would not even consider running for president, because he loves being a U.S. senator," he said. "It's his dream job and he seems to love every minute of it. But we're not living in a normal time and I think he's feeling pressure that maybe he has a higher calling."

Brown said while some urged him to seek the White House in 2020 before Tuesday, he could only focus then on his re-election. But since his win, he said, “it’s been pretty overwhelming.”

“My first mission is to encourage people to start talking about (American workers) more, reaching out to people in the industrial Midwest,” he said. “We’ll see later on about the presidential race. But we are thinking about it for the first time seriously.”

 

jwehrman@dispatch.com

@jessicawehrman