Sherrod Brown, in New Hampshire, touts populist cred as he tests waters for presidential bid

HAMPTON, New Hampshire – Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown said on Friday that he’ll put his progressive credentials up against that of any other Democratic presidential contender.

“I put my record up against anybody for fighting for workers,” the Democrat from Ohio told Fox News and two New Hampshire news organizations, when asked if there’s room for another progressive populist in the White House race. (Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is poised to formally launch her campaign on Saturday.)

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“I’ve been a progressive populist my whole career. I’ve fought for the dignity of work. It’s who I am,” Brown said.

He took aim at President Trump, saying “we see at the White House this phony populism."

“His phony populism is you divide people and you push people down to lift some others up. Real populism is not racist. It’s not anti-Semitic. It doesn’t divide people. It doesn’t do hate speech and real populism is fighting for workers,” he added.

The senator spoke minutes before he headlined a roundtable discussion in the beach community of Hampton, his first stop in a jam-packed two-day swing through New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House.

As he makes up his mind on running in 2020, Brown is on what he calls a “Dignity of Work” tour that’s already taken him to Iowa, the state that votes first in the primary/caucus calendar. The tour in many ways has the look and feel of a presidential campaign swing.

Brown, who won re-election in November to a third term representing the Buckeye State in the Senate, stuck with his timetable, saying “I will likely make a decision a month from now.”

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“Too many Democrats think you choose between talking to your progressive base and talking to workers about their lives. And I think you don’t win in New Hampshire or Ohio or a whole lot of swing states unless you do both. That’s who I am, fighting for workers as a progressive and what I think the message of the Democratic Party should be,” he explained.

Asked by Fox News if the possible entry into the race by former Vice President Joe Biden would be a factor in his decision, Brown quickly responded: “I will get in based on family issues and my own thoughts. Whether the former vice president gets in is immaterial to me.”

“I don’t necessarily see all the similarities that at least that one article suggests,” he added, reacting to a Politico story that highlighted similarities between the two men.

The senator touted his commitment to fighting climate change, which he said is “one of the great moral issues of our time.”

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He jabbed at the Trump stance on the issue, saying “the federal government needs to address it much more aggressively than the Trump administration, which has basically been in denial.”

But he didn’t fully support the Green New Deal, the sweeping proposal unveiled in Congress Thursday that aims to transform the country’s economy to combat climate change -- while enacting a host of new welfare programs. Seven of his Senate colleagues who are running for the Democratic nomination or are seriously mulling a White House bid have co-sponsored the legislation.

Brown stated that “I support a Green New Deal.” But he quickly added that “I want to see more specifically what any single plan says and does but I think we need to move forward aggressively. I been a strong supporter of environment issues in the Senate and will continue to.”

The GOP targeted Brown as he made his way to New Hampshire.

"Time and time again, Brown has sided with the far-left fringes of his party over a pro-workers' agenda. He voted against tax cuts, he votes against cutting regulations, and he votes against President Trump's agenda that has helped workers across the Granite State,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Mandi Merritt said.

At the ensuing roundtable discussion with local politicians, activists, voters and students that was held at Hampton’s Winnacunnet High School, the senator spoke and took questions from the panel and the audience for nearly an hour.

Brown spotlighted his commitment to fight for family leave, voting rights and lower costs for higher education.

And he reluctantly praised the New England Patriots, who just won their sixth Super Bowl.

“As a Browns fan, congratulations to the Patriots,” he said.