If Democrats want to contend in Ohio in 2020, they need to win in 2018.

If Democrats have any hope of keeping Ohio competitive and rebuilding the Midwestern blue wall that fell to Donald Trump in 2016, Sherrod Brown needs to win reelection this fall.

“The worry for Brown is that the state has taken a turn toward the Republicans and won’t turn back,” Kyle Kondik, part of the University of Virginia’s Crystal Ball team who quite literally wrote the book on Ohio, told me. “If Brown loses, it’s hard to see how Democrats can really contest the state in 2020 — in fact, they likely wouldn’t even try.”

Ohio swung dramatically toward Republicans in 2016: After President Obama won by 3 percentage points in 2012, Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 8 points. Brown is currently the only Democrat holding statewide elected office in the Buckeye State.

The two-term senator, who was first elected to the Senate in 2006, remains popular in Ohio and might have the right kind of populist persona to play well in this newly minted Trump Country. Brown is still considered a slight favorite to win this November: The UVA Crystal Ball rates the race “Lean Democrat,” as does the Cook Political Report.

The Ohio Senate race is still taking shape after seeing a dramatic shake-up on the Republican side this month. Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, whom Brown defeated by six points in 2012 and the expected favorite to win the Republican nomination again, withdrew from the race, citing family reasons.

There is suddenly a void that the various factions of the GOP — the Washington establishment and the Trump movement — are racing to fill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had spoken with J.D. Vance, the author of the Appalachian memoir Read More Here