Big banks should be worried as Brown joins presidential fray

Register now

There’s a new banking bogeyman poised to join the national stage.

While the financial industry has already been sweating the potential rise of Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as top 2020 presidential contenders, another prominent bank critic, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is now suggesting that he’s seriously considering a bid as well.

“This will very much be a family decision,” Brown told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in an interview published Monday. “It would affect a decade of our lives. It is a very personal, serious decision.”

While Brown had demurred about his White House prospects in the weeks and months leading up to his Senate re-election last week, he now appears to be giving the possibility some serious thought, citing the “overwhelming” number of people who have raised the idea with him, according to the Plain Dealer.

He was also vetted as a potential vice presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton in 2016, an experience that he has said led him to want the job. (Clinton, of course, ultimately chose Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate.)

There’s good reason to think that if Brown does move forward, he could be a serious competitor — especially as questions linger about whether he could have helped Clinton secure victory two years ago, particularly in white, working-class states like Ohio and Michigan that the Democratic nominee lost on election night.

Top of mind for many is Brown’s ability to win big in Ohio — a state that turned out to be a Trump stronghold in 2016. Could Brown be the president’s antidote on the left? Many are beginning to speculate that he could be.

Brown beat his Republican opponent, Rep. Jim Renacci, by more than 6 percentage points last week on a populist, progressive message that emphasized supporting blue-collar workers, seniors and veterans and what he’s termed “dignity in work.” He won handily despite the fact that Republicans largely swept many of Ohio’s other races on Tuesday. Richard Cordray, the former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for instance, lost his fight for governor to his GOP opponent by more than 4 percentage points.

For banks, a potential bid by Brown is likely to raise alarms given the Ohio Democrat’s longtime criticism of the industry.

As the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, Brown vigorously opposed the regulatory relief bill that passed this spring. He’s also been critical of efforts by regulators to roll back Dodd-Frank Act requirements and argued for tougher enforcement against Wells Fargo amid its numerous scandals. Brown has also previously authored legislation that would dramatically raise capital requirements on the biggest institutions in an effort to break them up.

Those are all positions he’s likely to take with him into any nationwide run. In 2016, financial issues took a backseat in the battle against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, a welcome reprieve for banks tired of being a political punching bag. But as Warren, Sanders and now Brown look ahead to 2020, banks had better get ready.

Bankshot is American Banker’s column for real-time analysis of today's news.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.