WASHINGTON — Since Sherrod Brown said he was considering running for president, The New York Times and the New Yorker have written glowing profiles (both, unsurprisingly, included the word "rumpled"). The magazine "The Week" called him "the Democrats’ best shot in 2020." The Washington Post posted an extensive Q&A.

Even George Will has written a column saying he might be the "optimum challenger" for Trump.

George Will, for heaven’s sake. The conservative one.

Two Ohio Democrats launched a "Draft Sherrod" movement, complete with a website.

Brown has no formal exploratory committee. He hasn’t been to Iowa or New Hampshire, at least not for presidential campaigning purposes. And, despite rumors, he has not been to meet President Barack Obama to ask for his blessing. Heck, he doesn’t even know if he’s in.

"I know lots of people check that box," he said of meeting with Obama. "I suppose at some point I will."

Brown may not be a candidate in his own eyes, but based on the surge of press — the traditional courting of the potential candidates that happens when a politician dips his toe in the water — he might as well be. Even Brown’s decision to get a haircut fed the speculation. (Cleveland.com posted a lengthy interview with his barber.)

As something close to a frenzy ensues — Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, enjoyed similar attention when he considered a run in 2016 — Brown still is getting known nationally. A Quinnipiac University poll of potential 2020 Democratic contenders found that 77 percent of those surveyed didn’t know enough about Brown to form an opinion about him.

"I’m surprised it’s only 77," Brown said.

"I don’t worry about poll numbers now at all. I barely see these numbers."

This is all new to Brown. Although he was vetted for vice president by Hillary Clinton in 2016, Brown said he’s never really thought about running for president before this year, when he won a third term for the U.S. Senate by six points. Trump won the state by eight points in 2016.

In the days after his win, Brown said, people began urging him to think about running, bolstered by his focus on the working class and his emphasis on "the dignity of work." So he’s thinking.

To supporters of a Brown candidacy, such candor is refreshing. David Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron, said the notion of somebody like Brown running is intriguing.

"People in Ohio like his frankness," he said. "He’s utterly genuine and people long for that — somebody who doesn’t poll-test answers to questions before he gives them."

Whaley, the mayor of Dayton and a co–chair of "Draft Sherrod Brown," said the senator’s warm reception stands out among the crowded field of would-be Democratic candidates.

That’s because Brown is perfectly open about where his mindset is entering 2020, she said.

"He doesn’t really know how he feels about what he’s doing," she said. "He’s very out there and very honest about how he’s not sure what he’s going to do."

She said he also has been well–received because they see Brown as a key to winning back the industrial Midwest.

"He’s the poster child for being able to win the general election because of that," she said.

Cohen said as 2020 nears, voters also might appreciate Brown’s political experience — now entering his 13th year in the U.S. Senate, after 14 years as a U.S. congressman, eight years as the Ohio secretary of state and eight years as a state representative. Such experience, he said, is a change from Trump, a political newcomer whose lack of political experience occasionally has spurred controversy.

Despite Brown's long tenure, Cohen said, he "is not your typical politician."

"He’s somebody that has never openly opined for the (presidency)," he said. "He is somebody that clearly enjoys his job as a U.S. senator. He has never been viewed as somebody using the Senate as a stepping stone to the Oval Office."

Not everyone is enamored of the idea. Ohio Republican Chairman Jane Timken said Brown’s focus on the middle class didn’t get him to back the tax bill Republicans passed this year. And his vocal opposition of Wall Street, she said, didn’t keep him from taking Wall Street donations.

"While dipping his toes in the presidential waters, Sherrod Brown has made talking about workers his central theme, but if you look back on his decades-old career, that's all he's done — talk," she said.

Republican political strategist Corry Bliss said resumes aren’t voters’ primary concern when they go to the polls.

"It’s all about charisma and excitement and firing up people and motivating people," he said. "It’s not who has the best 27-point plan for the economy. It’s who has excitement and charisma. It’s the ‘it’ factor."

Brown, said Bliss, "has the charisma of watching paint dry … it’s hard to imagine how or why he’d stand out."

jwehrman@dispatch.com

@jessicawehrman