Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sherrod Brown quickly out of the starting gate

SEN. SHERROD BROWN was in a campaign mode when he spoke at Akron Roundtable earlier this week. The luncheon audience packed the vast Quaker Station dining room with more than 500 Roundtable members and political guests. Seated directly in front of the dais were Democratic Reps. Betty Sutton and Tim Ryan, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, County Executive Russ Pry and FirstEnergy chief Anthony Alexander. It was the sort of turnout that would quicken the pulse of any campaigner.

From the podium, or working the crowd before and after, Brown didn't let the moment pass unheeded as he sets out to seek a second term in 2012. As elongated campaigns go these days, there's not a minute to take for granted.

The speech was largely from the hip, and stressed the accomplishments of the Obama Administration and Democrats during the lame duck session, with no harsh words for the Republican opposition. One of the criticisms of the Democrats was that they did an awful job of boasting of their successes. An unwavering liberal, Brown consistently and without apology supported the health care reform bill, the bailouts and the stimulus packages as well as a range of social issues that are anathema to the political right.

At 57, he retains a jauntily casual raspy-voiced approach to others that often belies the fact that he's dead serious about things that matter the most to his constituents.

In 2006, against the judgment of some of his supporters, he decided not to seek an eighth term as congressman from the 13th district. Instead, he challenged Republican Sen. Mike DeWine in what could have been a fool's errand. Brown won in a landslide. There's conjecture in the political campsites that the GOP will put up Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor for Brown 's senate seat, but others may want a piece of the action, too.

Republicans are on a roll this days and Brown can expect to be slammed with the usual right-wing trash talk. But even so, it would be premature to suppose that the Yale-educated blue-collar favorite is out of fashion. In politics, each day can be different from yesterday - and from tomorrow.

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