Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is taking a big step toward running for president, with plans to visit the all-important early voting states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.
The Democrat’s political team shared details Tuesday, and Brown made an announcement during primetime on Chris Hayes' MSNBC show, affording him an audience of the liberal and progressive voters he will need to impress to stand out in a crowded field.
Brown told Hayes that his wife, journalist Connie Schultz, would accompany him. When Hayes mentioned it sounded like the launch of a presidential campaign, Brown demurred. “Connie and I have not made that decision,” he said.
The Dignity of Work Tour — echoing a phrase he has homed in on in the last year as a mission statement meant to reflect his respect for the working class — will kick off Jan. 30 in Cleveland, where Brown lives, and continue the next day in Iowa. The first nominating caucuses there are little more than a year away.
“When work has dignity, everyone can afford health care, education and housing,” Brown said in a statement emailed to announce the tour. “They have power over their schedules and the economic security to start a family, pay for daycare and college, take time off to care for themselves or their families when they are sick, and save for retirement. The dignity of work is a value that unites us all. It’s what I fight for everyday representing the people of Ohio and it’s what we will fight for together on this tour around the country.”
An accompanying Dignity of Work website, which went live Tuesday night, is paid for by America Works, Brown’s political action committee. The PAC also will cover costs of the tour. The site includes a donate button, a letter from Brown, and highlights of his congressional career.
“In the coming weeks,” Brown writes, “I will be sharing some of my ideas to make hard work pay off for everyone in this county. And I want to hear yours.”
Dignity of work has been the core message for Brown since he won his third Senate term last fall — as his allies like to note, in a state President Donald Trump won decisively in 2016. The sentiment has roots in a Martin Luther King Jr. speech weeks before his assassination and meshes with Brown’s longtime advocacy for blue-collar workers and organized labor. He’s been a staunch opponent of trade pacts such as NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. And he’s known in Ohio for a populism that predates Trump and lacks the president’s nationalistic fervor.
Schultz said recently that a decision on a White House run could come in the next two months. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer is expected to play a visible role in any campaign. She has emphasized Dignity of Work themes in her nationally syndicated column and has drawn attention from Republican opposition researchers aligned with Trump.
Other announced and prospective Democratic candidates have visited one or two of the early states or announced plans to do so: Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts already has visited Iowa and New Hampshire, and Sen. Kamala Harris of California is due in South Carolina next week. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who announced her presidential plans Tuesday, is heading to Iowa this weekend. Brown’s announcement is unique in committing him to each of the first four states.
Unlike Warren, Gillibrand, and former US housing secretary Julián Castro, Brown has not established an exploratory committee, choosing instead to use his PAC to pay for early testing-the-waters expenses.