Sherrod Brown’s 2024 Chances Are Dimmed by Ohio’s Senate Loss


John Fetterman of Penn and Tim Ryan of Ohio ran as working-class Dems this year.

Fetterman, now a senator-elect, and Ryan, who failed, show how their once-joined states have diverged considerably. In a proper Democratic year, Pennsylvania is a swing state, but Ohio is no longer competitive.

This is a disturbing warning for Democrats, who must defend their Senate majority on an unfriendly map in two years. Dems will try to protect Senate seats in Montana, West Virginia, and Ohio in 2024.

What Does Ryan’s Loss Mean for the GOP?

With J.D. Vance’s win over Tim Ryan fresh in mind — a Republican triumph in disheartening midterms for the party — Ohio Conservatives, this week sharpened knives in expectations of taking on Sherrod Brown, the Liberal whose long-term validity with blue-collar voters has been a formula for Mr. Ryan.

Some Republicans said Brown would indeed be a more formidable opponent. Jai Chabria, Vance’s election consultant, labeled Ryan “the zero-calorie Sherrod Brown.”

Mr. Brown indicated he plans to run for a fourth term in 2024. If he does so, his longevity as a gruff hero of “work dignity” will be trialed.

Bob Paduchik, the Ohio GOP Party chairman, told the state Chamber of Commerce that the state’s dynamics had changed. Ohio Republicans are working-class conservatives. Sherrod portrays himself as just a working-class Democrat, which is rare in Ohio.

Does Sherrod Have a Plan?

Brown’s spokesperson didn’t comment. His chief political strategist, Justin Barasky, also worked on Mr. Ryan’s campaign, admitting that “the national Democratic Party image has deteriorated with working-class voters” Mr. Barasky said Ohio hasn’t completely gone from Democrats’ control like other once-competitive Midwest states.

He cited Mr. Ryan’s higher vote total in most 2020 Biden-won counties.

Ohio voted twice for erstwhile President Barack Obama before voting heavily for former President Donald J. Trump, who endeared to white voters without college educations.

This year, Democrats won Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. The party won all three governorships and Fetterman’s Senate election. Nan Whaley, the ex-mayor of Dayton, lost by 25 points to Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who was not chastised for passing a stringent abortion restriction.

Pennsylvania and Ohio both had Senate elections to replace retiring Republicans. Fetterman won by 4.5 points, one of the Democrats’ biggest midterm triumphs, while Ryan lost by 6.5.

Mr. Ryan campaigned on an anti-China, pro-union stance, warning people, “I’m not your man,” for a culture war. Both he and Mr. Fetterman, who was mayor of a tireless steel town nearby Pittsburgh, wore hooded sweatshirts as proletariat uniforms.

Northeast Ohio, where Mr. Ryan has served in Congress for 20 years, was the most Democratic part of the state when the industrial base ruled. Northeast Ohio is the state’s most conservative region.

Mahoning District, which contains Youngstown in Mr. Ryan’s seat, voted for Mr. Vance more than for Mr. Trump in 2020. This was the first time in almost half a century a GOP presidential candidate won Mahoning District.

This is a Huge Political Shift…

Northeast Ohio’s move away from Democrats worries some party strategists about Brown’s chances.

Irene Lin, a Dem strategist in Ohio, said Youngstown ought to be the Democratic brand’s, true heart. “Can Sherrod survive? “I’m unsure.”

Per the survey, Ohio and Pennsylvania have equal proportions of black and white people and educational achievement.

In Ohio, discrepancies favor the GOP. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, both largely Democratic, have more residents than Ohio’s Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati.

Ohio isn’t like the Democratic-leaning suburbs surrounding Philadelphia.

Democratic strategists said Ryan surpassed expectations this year, gaining two points on Biden’s 2020 defeat in Ohio. They projected Brown will run a tight race in 2024. He defeated Mr. DeWine in 2006, then Josh Mandel, a longtime state treasurer, in 2012.

Mr. Brown will also have an edge that Mr. Ryan lacked: the all-but-certain backing of vast amounts of money from outside Democratic groups that want to defend the Ohio seat.

Democrats aren’t fleeing the state. In three House contests this year, the Democratic nominee won an open seat in Akron, converted a Cincinnati-based seat, and retained a Toledo-based seat that Mr. Trump secured.

To Republicans, Mr. Ryan’s reach-across-the-aisle character — dodging the Democratic moniker and bragging of siding with Mr. Trump on trade — was contradicted by his overall support for Mr. Biden’s plan and by certain earlier utterances that coincided with the left.

He anticipated wealthy Republicans would enter the Senate contest to swing a seat. He remarked, “Sherrod Brown is ripe.” “There’s a big chance.”

Frank LaRose, the just re-elected sec of state, Mark Kvamme, a startup capitalist, and Matt Dolan, founder of the Cleveland Guardians, are believed to be considering runs.

Scott Milburn, a former advisor to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said Vance’s success belied several shortcomings. His 6.5-point winning margin was lower than most other Republicans’ double-digit triumphs this year.

Mr. Milburn also said if Republicans pick a 2024 candidate with relative shortcomings as Mr. Vance, they will battle against Mr. Brown, who can engage with voters.