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Sen. Sherrod Brown doesnt sleep much these days. With tough races for Democrats up and down the ballot in the Buckeye State this cycle, the Ohio Democrat has become an omnipresent fixture on the campaign trail there in recent months.
A Democratic operative said its not uncommon for Brown to drive 500 miles in a day, shoving off before dawn and gripping and grinning until dinnertime. After that, he will hit the Democratic fundraising circuit throughout the evening and wont return home until well after local newscasters have signed off for the night.
During the day Im doing Senate stuff, and at night Im helping candidates, Brown told Roll Call in an interview this week. Thats kind of what Ive always done.
But theres no doubt that Brown is also looking out for No. 1 in the waning weeks of this years election cycle. After ousting Sen. Mike DeWine (R) four years ago by 500,000 votes, its Browns turn to be tested in 2012, when he will likely face a frustrated Rust Belt electorate thats still snakebitten by a bad economy.
Republicans expecting to wear big smiles come Wednesday and potentially seeing their own Rep. John Boehner (Ohio) elevated to Speaker in January should the GOP win House control are already looking toward 2012 and unseating Brown.
A union official estimated that Brown has shown up at perhaps 10 or more Ohio Democratic fundraising events that the source has attended since midsummer.
Hes very concerned about the races [in Ohio], that people are putting the right resources into the right races and the right places, the union official said. Hes the steady captain at the helm, not getting too high or too low. ... He sits in the crowd, doesnt like the limelight and is very behind the scenes.
Republicans have taken notice. Even before the 2010 midterm elections, GOPers say they are keeping a watchful eye on Browns apparent early re-election strategy.
You can see that hes building an organization for two years from now, said Bill Batchelder, Ohios Republican state House leader. Hes traveling all over the state, collecting e-mail addresses. Of course, he wants to help his party, but hes also building his own organization.
Brown has become something of a progressive hero to the left.
In an interview, Brown declined to discuss his re-election strategy other than to confirm that hes running and predict that he will win. He also said he expects to raise at least $11 million, the same amount that he spent in 2006. That could make the next 24 months even busier than his current clip, considering he only had $1.4 million in the bank as of Oct. 1, according to CQ MoneyLine.
I expect to be re-elected in 2012, Brown said. Of course, every officeholder thinks about the next election, but this fall Ive continued to do my job and help candidates.