With handshakes, personal embraces, and applause lines in bigger crowds, Senator Sherrod Brown and his wife, Connie Schultz, tried pitching to Iowans the ‘Dignity of Work’ message Brown laid out at his launch event in Ohio.
“We speak to our progressive values,” Brown told supporters in Ohio. “We talk to workers about their lives.”
When Brown arrived in Iowa, some lifelong residents like Mark Suby already knew Brown from his frequent cable news appearances, but wanted to learn more about the Ohio Democrat.
“Sherrod Brown comes from a state that’s been mostly Republican, and he’s managed to survive over the years, so what’s his secret?” said Suby, who lives in Mason City and attended an event where Brown discussed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
The senator is hoping his secret is the ability to attract voters from both sides of the aisle, with a message that is progressive enough for young Democrats, while moderate enough for Iowans who voted for Obama twice, but then Trump.
“We hear a lot about the progressive, the hope and the change, anti-Trump, but then we also have to look at the message of how do we rebuild and expand on the things we are doing right?” said Bryce Smith, who attended a round table with Brown in Perry, IA. “And I think Senator Brown has that kind of message.”
But parts of Brown’s policy stances were met with hesitation by some.
Ruth Walker, who lives in Cedar Falls, pressed him on supporting Medicare for All at a house party in Waterloo, IA. Brown told her he wants to first focus on lowering the Medicare age to 50 or 55.
When Walker was asked if his answer would lead her to support him or step away, she said, “Well, probably step away. But it depends on who else is running.”
Voters in Iowa don’t mess around with presidential hopefuls. They came to Brown’s events loaded with questions, had done their research, and studied up on his career.
Many told Spectrum News they were impressed with how Brown handled the first leg of his four-state listening tour.
Their question moving forward? Can his ‘Dignity of Work’ message really standout in such a crowded primary field?
“Could it stand out from the pack? Probably not,” said Tracy Smith, who lives in Clear Lake, IA and attended the EITC event. “I think it’s an outstanding message and he’s been consistent forever.”
Most people we spoke with said they were not bothered by Brown’s 40 years in politics, and seemed impressed by his consistent record. While this tour is focused on listening to voters, some said they do want to hear more from Brown, especially if he runs for president.
“Two things come to mind,” said Jane Auge, who lives in Dubuque and attended a meet-and-greet with Brown. “The first he talked a little bit about, but climate change. I think that’s a huge issue. And then, I work with international students and I’ve seen [that] this administration has really impacted people from all over the world, and it’s made America not very welcome."
Auge continued, "So I would like to see and hear him talk about how he plans on kind of coming back from that and addressing everything that’s happened, rebuilding, and making America more welcoming again.”
Roger Kurt, who also attended the Dubuque event, said he wants to hear Brown talk more about foreign relations.
“I’d like to hear him say more about how he would approach the intelligence community, compared to how Trump approaches it — which is he thinks he knows more than what they know,” Kurt said.
Brown picks up his tour in New Hampshire on Friday evening. He and Schultz have said they will make a decision about running in March.