The Democratic presidential field could soon add another heavyweight anti-Wall Street populist: Sen. Sherrod Brown, fresh off a convincing reelection victory in right-trending Ohio, confirmed Monday that he is considering entering the race.
Brown would join what’s shaping up to be a historically crowded Democratic field, and one that looks likely to include Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a fellow antagonist of financial giants and member of the Senate Banking Committee. Brown, the top Democrat on the panel, told cleveland.com he plans to discuss the move with his family over the holidays.
His reelection by six points in a perennial swing state that President Trump carried by eight points in 2016 has reignited speculation about his national ambitions. It helps that Brown appeared to cruise even as other Ohio Democrats floundered: Richard Cordray, with similar bona fides as the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, lost his gubernatorial bid by four points; House candidates failed to flip a single Republican seat; and they lost a state Senate seat.
Brown in his interview said he has heard from an “overwhelming” number of people telling him to consider a run. And he said his reelection campaign’s message of worker empowerment offers a playbook for national Democrats. “My message clearly appeals to Democrats, Republicans and independents,” he said. “We showed you can get votes by being authentic and standing up for workers. People in Washington don't understand the dignity of work.”
Brown’s campaign — emphasizing the need to protect health care coverage and shore up workers’ pensions, railing against what he framed as a regressive Republican tax cut, while continuing to underline his opposition to free trade deals — was emblematic of his lunch-bucket approach over 12 years in the Senate. And it likely formed the spine of a national run, should he make one.
But it wasn’t Brown’s message alone that lifted him to victory. His $27.7 million war chest was the biggest of any Democratic campaign in Ohio’s history. His opponent, Rep. Jim Renacci, had some unique flaws, including having to defend borrowing a strip-club owner’s private jet to meet with faith leaders late in the campaign. Plus, Brown’s winning margin, while comfortable, was tighter than polls predicted; his victory map doesn’t reveal a sea of blue. He only won 16 of the state’s 88 counties.
Yet a closer look at Tuesday's results reveal Brown showed strength by limiting his losses in rural conservative strongholds. Ohio political watchers say that performance helps explain how Brown secured roughly 281,000 more votes than Cordray — and roughly 100,000 more than Mike DeWine, the Republican who won the governor’s race. “The difference between [Brown and Cordray] is much larger in places where Democrats don’t do well,” said one national Democratic strategist with experience working on Ohio campaigns.
Brown recaptured a handful of Trump counties in the northeastern corner of the state — steel country — including Ashtabula, Trumbull, Lake and Portage counties. He also carried Montgomery County in southwestern Ohio, home to the midsize city of Dayton, by more than 23,000 votes. Cordray, by contrast, lost it by about 1,100. The county is something of a bellwether within a bellwether, with a roughly even split between urban, suburban and rural voters. President Obama carried it in both his campaigns, then Trump won it in 2016.
“It’s a pretty perfect place to look at where the realignment is happening across the state,” Dayton mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, tells me.
That is, as ProPublica reporter Alec MacGillis noted on Twitter last week, that Ohio is becoming friendlier territory for a Republican party increasingly reliant on white blue-collar voters:
What could be driving such a transformation? Well, for one thing, demographics. As the share of white non-college voters drops nationwide, it’s holding strong in Ohio. The state is 82 percent white and only 28 percent of Ohioans have completed some higher ed.— Alec MacGillis (@AlecMacGillis) November 8, 2018
Whaley said Brown’s focus on the ravages of free trade deals, an issue Cordray didn’t seize, helped him run up the score. And while Brown’s position has been a rare point of agreement between him and Trump, Whaley says Brown was there first. “It’s not like Sherrod is suddenly on the bandwagon. When Obama was for the [Trans-Pacific Partnership], Sherrod was against it. It defines who he is.”
More important, she says, is Brown’s message on “the dignity of work.” It was a central pillar of his campaign: “That no one is really talking about people who are working hard, playing by the rules and falling further behind. I think the party misses that point… I really hope he runs. I don't see how you get through the industrial midwest without that message.”
Indeed, Brown’s ad on the subject — titled “Dignity” — could just as easily work for a national run, since he didn't mention the office he’s seeking:
“There are a lot of communities in Iowa that have similar backgrounds to a lot of the communities in Ohio,” says Aaron Pickrell, a Democratic strategist in Ohio. “You could argue that a candidate from the part of the country between Pennsylvania and Iowa has a special ability to campaign in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio,” states that helped deliver Trump to the presidency.
Brown, in his victory speech, only invoked Trump’s name once. But he used the talk in part to critique what he sees as president’s brand of populism. “Populists are not racists. Populists are not anti-Semitic,” Brown said. “When we see a White House that looks like a retreat for Wall Street executives, we know that our fight is far from over. We have so much left to do to raise wages, lower healthcare costs and make sure everyone who works hard can retire with the dignity that they have earned.”
The senator on the campaign trail regularly criticized the Republican tax cut as a giveaway to the wealthiest. In the Senate, he opposed the bill rolling back some Dodd-Frank regulations that moderates on his panel worked with Republicans to pass. He has slammed efforts by the Trump administration — and Trump-appointed banking regulators — to ease post-crisis rules on the industry.
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— Tech concerns drive market drop. The Washington Post's Thomas Heath: “U.S. markets dropped Monday on renewed fears that the tech sector has run out of steam. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 601 points, or 2.3 percent, to 25,387.18, in the session. The blue-chip barometer was dragged lower by the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index, which tanked 2.8 percent on the weak technology shares. . . . The Nasdaq has been in a pressure cooker for weeks as technology, particularly the so-called FAANG companies — Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet — have hit turbulence with investors. ‘It’s mostly Apple,’ said Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research. ‘More selling of the FAANG stocks. The stocks that can do no wrong now are tripping up. They were leading the market higher and the market narrowed over the past year as the big-cap tech names led the way up. And now a lot of the air is coming out of them.’ ”
Blame a three-minute chat. Bloomberg’s Tim Culpan: “A three minute conversation on stage at UBS AG’s Global Technology Conference in San Francisco helped wipe more than $190 billion from global stocks. Lumentum Holdings Inc. makes lasers for 3D facial recognition used by major smartphone makers, with Apple Inc. its key client. On Monday, the company announced a 17 percent cut in its December-quarter revenue outlook. That triggered a plunge in shares of Apple and its suppliers, and reverberated through stock markets in the U.S. and Asia.”
Trump points to Democrats. Bloomberg News's Justin Sink: “Trump turned to a new explanation for stock market declines Monday, blaming scrutiny his administration could face from Democrats who recently won the majority in the House of Representatives. ‘The prospect of Presidential Harassment by the Dems is causing the Stock Market big headaches!’ he tweeted Monday. . . . Ahead of the elections, Trump tweeted stocks would ‘go down’ if Democrats prevailed. The S&P 500 rallied 2.1 percent the day after the vote, but has fallen in each of the three days since, erasing the post-election rally as concerns about global growth re-emerge . . . Still, Trump appears eager to shift blame for future losses to his newly empowered political opponents — while also seeking to head off congressional investigations into ethical scandals and policy controversies during his first two years in office.”
— Investors worry about dollar's strength. CNBC's Patti Domm: “Stocks investors are spooked about a lot of things, and the strong dollar biting into earnings growth is now one of them . . . The dollar's strength Monday was largely attributed to weakness in the British pound and euro because of negative Brexit news and concerns about Italy's budget. But the dollar has also been rising on trade war concerns, rising U.S. interest rates and weaker growth rates outside the U.S.”
— Flake, Coons tell Trump to stop criticizing the Fed. WSJ's Nick Timiraos: "Two U.S. senators called on President Trump Monday to stop publicly criticizing the Federal Reserve and warned his comments could jeopardize the central bank’s credibility and hurt the economy. In a letter to Mr. Trump, Sens. Chris Coons (D., Del.) and Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) also said Mr. Trump’s disagreement with the central bank over interest-rate policies wouldn’t be a sufficient reason to remove any Fed leaders, including Chairman Jerome Powell... 'Your ill-advised commentary goes beyond holding the Fed accountable,' said Sens. Coons and Flake in the letter to Mr. Trump. 'You appear to be telling the Fed what to do with interest rates, which we believe is unconstructive and dangerous.'"
Fed's Daly says more rate hikes are warranted. Bloomberg News's Jeanna Smialek: “Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President Mary Daly said U.S. policy makers ought to be gradually lifting interest rates to bring an economy that’s running above potential in for a soft landing. ‘It wouldn’t be surprising to me that we would need to go up again in December and at least a couple of times next year,’ Daly told Bloomberg News in her first interview on policy since she became head of the regional Fed branch on Oct. 1.”
— U.S. could boost global growth next year. Bloomberg’s Peter Coy: “Judging by recent headlines, the global economy is on a wild roller coaster that’s going mostly downhill. There are Brexit, trade wars, Italy’s fight with the European Union, renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran, a Chinese debt bomb, jittery stock markets, intermittent capital flight from developing nations, and more. The data tell a calmer and happier story.
“According to the International Monetary Fund, the global economy is on track to grow a healthy 3.7 percent in 2018. That’s exactly how fast it grew in 2017. The IMF’s forecast for 2019? Again, 3.7 percent. It’s a plateau, all right, but a high plateau—call it the Altiplano of economics. The contrast between the negative daily buzz and positive underlying conditions is sharpest in the U.S., where the expansion of the world’s largest economy has actually strengthened as it’s lengthened.”
— U.S., China resume talks. WSJ's Bob Davis and Lingling Wei: "Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has resumed discussions with his Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He, about a deal that would ease trade tension, ahead of a meeting of the leaders of China and the U.S. set for the end of the month. The two spoke by telephone on Friday, said people briefed on the conversation, as the U.S. demands that China put forward a concrete offer before negotiations on a trade deal can take place. Chinese officials are resisting and say they want to talk first before making a formal proposal. They worry that once they make a formal offer they will lose leverage, say officials in both countries. The Friday conversation didn’t lead to any breakthrough in those issues but the renewed discussions indicate the two sides are trying to reach an accommodation, the officials say."
It's not just about tariffs. WSJ's Kate O’Keeffe: “The Trump administration is broadening its China trade battle beyond tariffs with a plan to use export controls, indictments and other tools to counter the theft of intellectual property . . . The opening move in the new strategy came in the form of a recent crackdown by the Commerce and Justice Departments on a Chinese state-owned chip maker, which the U.S. administration accused of stealing trade secrets from Idaho-based Micron Technology Inc . . . U.S. officials are looking at additional cases where they could use a similar combination of tools to fight Chinese IP theft . . . The officials hope that the unprecedented actions taken to defend Micron — the largest American memory-chip maker — will encourage more U.S. companies to work with the government to counter intellectual property theft . . . The new blueprint will only work in certain cases and requires extensive resources and interagency coordination to address the thefts on a case-by-case basis.”
— Auto tariffs advance. Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs and Jenny Leonard: “The White House is circulating a draft report by the U.S. Commerce Department over whether to impose tariffs on automobile imports to protect national security, three people familiar with the matter said. [Trump] is scheduled to meet with senior members of his trade team on Tuesday to discuss how to proceed on the potential tariffs, two of the people said. Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, they didn’t give any insight into Commerce’s conclusions… European Commission trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom is coming to Washington this week to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to continue exploratory talks for a future free trade agreement.”
— Pence pushes Japan for a deal. Reuters: "Vice President Mike Pence, keeping up pressure on Japan to cut its trade surplus with the United States, said on Tuesday American goods and services too often faced barriers in Japan and a bilateral trade agreement offered the best way forward... Japan has insisted the new Trade Agreement on Goods would not be a wide-ranging free trade agreement, but U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said he was aiming for a full free trade deal requiring approval by Congress. [Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe did not comment directly on the nature of a future deal."
- “Trump is preparing to remove Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security secretary, aides say.” The Post’s Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey and Phil Rucker.
- “Top Democrats demand to know whether Justice Dept. ethics chief told Whitaker to step aside on Russia.” The Post's Karoun Demirjian.
“U.S. acting Attorney General will consult with ethics officials on possible recusals.” Reuters's Sarah Lynch.
- “A reader’s guide: 12 targets as House Democrats prepare to investigate the Trump administration.” The Washington Post's Colby Itkowitz.
— Amazon picks Crystal City and New York City. The Post's Jonathan O'Connell, Robert McCartney and Patricia Sullivan: “Amazon will open major new outposts in Northern Virginia’s Crystal City and in New York City, splitting its much-sought investment of up to 50,000 jobs between the two East Coast sites ... An announcement could come as early as Tuesday ... An Amazon.com spokesman declined to comment. The company had said it would make a decision on the high-profile project, which it calls HQ2, this year. The choice of Crystal City in Arlington County as one of the winners could cement Northern Virginia’s reputation as a magnet for business and potentially reshape the Washington region into an eastern outpost of Silicon Valley over the next decade. ... Amazon’s decision to split the project rather than open a second headquarters on par with its Seattle campus has angered some who said the company had ginned up competition among cities only to change the rules midstream.” (Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
The two cities offer "similar basics but different vibes," per the AP: "Set within eyeshot of the nation’s capital, Crystal City is a thicket of 1980s-era office towers trying to plug into new economic energy after thousands of federal jobs moved elsewhere. Rapidly growing Long Island City is an old manufacturing area already being reinvented as a hub for 21st-century industry, creativity and urbane living."
— GE plans to sell assets. Reuters's Alwyn Scott and Rachit Vats: “General Electric Co is pursuing assets sales with ‘urgency’ to reduce its high debt and is unsure when its ailing power business will hit bottom, Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp said in a television interview on Monday, sending its shares down as much as 10 percent. Culp is facing tough questions about GE’s financial strength and earnings prospects after he was named CEO on Oct. 1 with a mandate to turn around the 126-year-old conglomerate. ‘We have no higher priority right now than bringing leverage levels down,’ Culp told CNBC. ‘We have plenty of opportunity to do that through asset sales.’ . . . Culp said GE is trying to get ‘a better grounding in reality’ in its ailing power business, which was responsible for its large loss in the third quarter.”
— Palantir, ahead of a possible IPO, keeps losing money. WSJ's Rob Copeland and Eliot Brown: “Palantir Technologies Inc. appears to be a prosperous Silicon Valley spy-software machine. . . . Its value by one measure is $20 billion, one of the highest among private tech companies, and its founders include famed investor Peter Thiel. . . . The company has begun planning an initial public offering but hasn’t turned an annual profit in its 14-year history. . . . It missed sales targets last year after hoped-for contracts fell through. Its engineers were accustomed to spending profligately — the company sponsored 13-course tasting-menu lunches with lobster tail and sashimi at headquarters — calling such extravagance ‘Palantir Entitlement Syndrome.’ . . . It has run like a scrappy startup even though it has become a global company. . . . Palantir is among a host of ‘unicorns’ — startups valued over $1 billion — that are losing money years after inception . . . That’s in contrast to an earlier generation. Facebook Inc. turned an annual profit after five years.”
— Congress returns to familiar Trump threat. The Post's Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner: "Congress will return Tuesday facing a familiar threat: President Trump’s demand for billions of dollars for his U.S.-Mexico border wall with the risk of a government shutdown if he doesn’t get it. The lame-duck session gives the outgoing House Republican majority one final test of governing before Democrats take over in January and leave Trump with a weakened hand in pushing his priorities on Capitol Hill, even though the GOP still has a grip on the Senate.
"But Republicans determined to deliver for Trump face the intractable issue of immigration as well as Democrats emboldened by the midterm elections, as their expected House majority continues to grow to a dozen seats or more as votes are counted. Senate races in Arizona and Florida remain too close to call. That has Democrats ready to resist the president’s demand for border money, now expected to be a minimum of $5 billion for the fiscal year."
— What the tax cut has delivered so far. NYT's Jim Tankersley and Matt Phillips: "The $1.5 trillion tax overhaul that President Trump signed into law late last year has already given the American economy a jolt, at least temporarily. It has fattened the paychecks of most American workers, padded the profits of large corporations and sped economic growth. Those results weren’t a surprise. Economists across the ideological spectrum predicted the new law would fuel consumer spending, in classic fashion: When the government borrows money and dumps it into the economy, growth tends to accelerate.
"But Republicans did not sell the law as a sugar-high stimulus. They sold it as a refashioning of the incentives in the American economy — one that would unleash more investment, better efficiency and higher wages, along with enough growth to offset any revenue lost to the government from lower tax rates. Ten months after the law took effect, that promised 'supply-side' bump is harder to find than the sugar-high stimulus."
- Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled “Big bank bankruptcy: 10 years after Lehman Brothers.”
- Federal Reserve Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles appears before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.
- The National Economists Club holds an event titled “US Outlook: Exploring the Key Debates” on Thursday in Washington.
- Senate Banking Committee hearing on “Oversight of pilot programs at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac” on Dec. 5.
— From the New Yorker's Charlie Hankin:
Why does Trump keeping attacking California over its deadly wildfires?
“Becoming” by former first lady Michelle Obama presents a candid account of her life. Here’s what else she’s been up to since leaving the White House:
A brief history of SNL apologies: