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Sherrod Brown eyes early-voting states — and maybe a 2020 run

What do Democrats want in a 2020 nominee?
What do Democrats want in a 2020 nominee? 08:13

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is planning a visit to Iowa and other early voting states in the coming weeks, according to people familiar with his plans, the latest sign that the senator is seriously eyeing a run for the White House in 2020. Brown has said he first started considering a run for the presidency after his victory in the 2018 midterms. 

The 66-year-old was the only Democrat to win statewide in Ohio, where President Trump won by nearly 10 points, a victory that he said prompted calls from Democrats urging him to consider taking on Mr. Trump. 

Since his win, Brown's staff has started making preparations, should he launch a campaign. His team has already held conversations with potential staffers in Iowa and Nevada.

"Sherrod has said many times he's seriously considering a run for president. And that includes a visit to early states to see what that would look like," said Justin Barasky, a Brown adviser who managed the senator's 2018 campaign.

Brown could enter the race with an advantage — his chief of staff, Sarah Benzing, is from Iowa.  She has close ties to state Democrats after managing several statewide races there and has also run national campaigns.  Sources familiar with Brown's thinking say that Benzing would serve as his campaign director if he decides to run.

Brown won re-election on a progressive economic message focused on "the dignity of work," one that could appeal to Midwestern voters who broke for President Trump in 2016.

It's likely Brown would be a late entry in a crowded primary field against candidates with similar messages and more name recognition, like former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In a recent CNN/Des Moines Register poll, 23 percent of likely 2020 Democratic caucus goers said they had a favorable opinion of him but 69 percent were "not sure."

Brown has a not announced a timeline for his decision but he and his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Connie Schultz, have said they will make a decision in the coming months.

Caitlin Huey-Burns and Katie Ross Dominick contributed to this report.

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