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Senator Sherrod Brown absent from President Biden’s East Palestine trip

President Biden waves to the Press Pool while Pennsylvania Congressman Chris Deluzio embraces a women to his immediate left.

When President Joe Biden traveled aboard Air Force One Friday afternoon to visit East Palestine, he was accompanied by Pennsylvania Congressman Chris Deluzio (D), absent, however, was Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D).

Brown’s absence, not just from the flight but also from all appearances in East Palestine, likely indicates concerns by the Senator and his strategists that appearing beside the President would only hurt his already difficult task of getting re-elected this November.

As previously reported by our news organization, Ohio has steadily shifted from a swing state to a solidly Republican stronghold, leaving it up in the air if Brown’s ability to sway voters will be enough to earn the 71-year-old Senator another 6 years in Congress.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden announced he would be making a trip to East Palestine, Ohio, the town in which a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in February 2023 while carrying hazardous materials, necessitating the controlled release and burn-off of five tanks of vinyl chloride, resulting in a large black plume being observed and internationally reported.

Ohio Senators J. D. Vance (R) and Sherrod Brown (D), as well as other statewide officials, such as Governor Mike DeWine (R), arrived in town days after the explosion. Many called for President Biden (D) to also visit but he turned down such invitations, opting instead to visit Ukraine roughly two weeks later. Days after that visit to Kyiv, former President Donald Trump arrived in East Palestine to meet with local residents and hear their concerns.

It is customary that when the President visits an area in the United States he will bring along a senator or congressperson, sometimes multiple, to accompany him. When President Biden visited the future site of Intel’s leading-edge chip factories, in New Albany, for example, he brought along Senator Sherrod Brown (D) and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D).

When President Biden flew above Air Force One from Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh International Airport Friday afternoon, he was accompanied by Pennsylvania Congressman Chris Deluzio (D), whose district includes the airport of destination but is also directly next to East Palestine, as the town sits on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Typically, only members of Congress from the same party will join the president aboard his plane, deemed the most recognizable in the world. Absent this time, however, was Senator Sherrod Brown (D).

With the Senate in recess for Presidents’ Day but also a state work period, it’s possible Senator Brown wasn’t in the nation’s capital Friday and was instead back in Ohio, but if he was, he didn’t show up to East Palestine to accompany President Biden. Brown also made no public appearances Friday that would give a clue as to the reason for his absence, he also didn’t post anything on his social media sites Friday, on either those of his official congressional account or campaign account as to his whereabouts.

The likely intentional absence has to do with shifting political headwinds in Ohio that make Brown’s election this November contentious. He will face off against the Republican primary winner this spring, which consists of Matt Dolan, Frank LaRose and Bernie Moreno.

In 2018, Senator Sherrod Brown secured a seven-point lead over his Republican opponent, Jim Renacci. In 2022, J. D. Vance (R) received roughly half a million more votes than Congressman Tim Ryan (D) in their senate race, which many said, along with sizable leads for all statewide races, showed that Ohio was no longer a swing state.

Many wondered if Brown would announce his retirement from the Senate, a post he has held since 2007, but election analysts say he is the best chance the Democrats have at retaining the seat. If Brown were to retire mid-term, Governor Mike DeWine (R) would be able to appoint his successor, guaranteeing it would go to a Republican. Senator Brown served in the U.S. House of Representatives before moving to the upper house, having been a member of Congress since 1993. He previously served as Ohio’s Secretary of State and as a member of Ohio’s House of Representatives, holding elected office for nearly half a century.

Roughly just shy of 100 million dollars was spent on the senate race between Tim Ryan and J. D. Vance, with Ryan outspending Vance four to one, and many predict that the race this year will exceed that total amount.

Senator Brown’s office did not reply to a request for comment or provide an explanation for his absence.

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