The overcrowded Democratic field is finally starting to shrink. Already this week, Michael Bloomberg, Eric Holder, and Jeff Merkley have announced they won’t run for president. Of those, only Bloomberg was a real surprise. Then came the big one: On Thursday, Sherrod Brown announced he wouldn’t run either.
Brown’s choice followed a decisive reelection campaign in November, and then a widely publicized “Dignity of Work” barnstorming tour of the early primary and caucus states. The senator from Ohio acknowledged he was thinking hard about running. But he told America’s best-named newspaper, the Youngstown Vindicator, that he decided the Senate was the best place for his message.
“Being president isn’t something I have dreamed of my whole life or even for years,” Brown said. “My goal for our tour is to make the dignity of work the centerpiece of the Democrats’ 2020 campaign because I believe that’s the way to beat Donald Trump.”
He added that he hadn’t been especially cowed by the process or the fundraising or any other opponent. Among the many candidates, he did have a distinctive niche: He is noisily progressive, but also a man of the people, as comfortable in a union hall as he is at Yale, his alma mater. Think Bernie Sanders, but without the grumpiness and with a midwestern power base. He is unusually blunt, happy to call Donald Trump a racist without a moment’s hesitation, but unwilling to write off white blue-collar workers who voted for the president—because many of them voted for him, too.
Brown’s departure doesn’t just represent the shrinking of the Democratic field—it might signal the shrinking of the Democratic map, too. Brown seemed like the party’s best bet to win Ohio. The Buckeye State is traditionally the queen of swing states, but Democrats have been shut out at the state level for years, and Trump won the state in 2016. Brown’s reelection campaign showed that a Democrat could still win statewide, but maybe only one Democrat: Sherrod Brown. Also this week, the Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA announced it was dropping Ohio from its priority list. Congressman Tim Ryan, who represents a Rust Belt district in northeastern Ohio, has some of the same instincts as Brown and is considering a presidential run, but he doesn’t have the same profile.
Having dropped out, Brown will probably automatically jump to the top of short lists of running mates for the eventual Democratic nominee, just as he was high on Hillary Clinton’s in 2016. He’s suggested he might have won if she’d picked him. Brown told the Vindy on Thursday that he’s not interested in being vice president—but he said that last cycle, too.
Even with this week’s exodus, there are still more than two dozen announced or possible Democratic candidates. On the Republican side, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld is considering a challenge to President Donald Trump, and other GOP candidates might run. There will be independent candidates and third-party contenders as well.
As the presidential primaries progress, this cheat sheet will be updated regularly.