Liberal Dem senator backs Biden, despite prior vow to stay out of primary

Ohio’s top elected Democratic politician changed his mind.

On the day after Super Tuesday – as most of the remaining Democratic presidential contenders were dropping out of the race and backing a surging Joe Biden – Sen. Sherrod Brown told reporters that he was planning to stay neutral in Ohio’s scheduled March 17 primary in what was shaping up to be a two-candidate race between Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

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Fast-forward a month and Brown – a progressive three-term senator who flirted with his own White House bid early last year – is ending his neutrality and is backing the former vice president.

"Joe Biden has dedicated his life to serving our country, and has never forgotten whom he fights for: the millions of Americans who are working hard, but feel like they can't earn their way to a better life, no matter how hard they work,” said Brown, a populist politician who’s long looked out for the working class.

Pointing to an economy crumbling due to the coronavirus pandemic that has forced most Americans to stay in their homes, Brown emphasized, “As we face both a public health crisis and an economy in turmoil, we need a steady hand more than ever. Joe Biden has the experience, the tenacity, and the empathy to lead in a crisis, and the hope to bring us together, and steer us toward brighter days ahead."

Plenty's changed in the Democratic race since Brown said he planned to not endorse a candidate in the presidential primary. Biden’s sweeping victories in major primaries on March 10 and 17 boosted his lead over Sanders to more than 300 convention delegates, cementing his role as the all-but-certain Democratic nominee. Biden also enjoyed a tidal wave of endorsements from leading Democratic members of Congress, governors, and pro-Democratic organizations and much of the party coalesced around his White House bid.

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But Sanders has stayed in the race, saying he still has a "narrow path" to win the nomination.

Brown’s backing of Biden is timely, coming as voting is ongoing in Ohio’s presidential primary. The state’s in-person voting – which was scheduled for March 17 – was scrapped at the last minute due to coronavirus health concerns.

Under a bill passed by the state’s legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine, postcards are being sent to every registered voter to explain how they can obtain a vote-by-mail application. Ballots must be postmarked by April 27 to be counted. The state will allow an extremely limited group of people – mostly disabled voters – to cast a ballot in person on April 28.

The most recent public opinion polling in Ohio, conducted in the days before the originally scheduled March 17 primary, indicated Biden with large double-digit leads over Sanders.