BRUNSWICK — History will record that it was 4 degrees below zero when America’s 46th president launched the campaign that won an improbable bid for the White House.

Or not.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown rallied home-state supporters Wednesday night on the eve of heading to Iowa to launch a multi-state Dignity of Work tour that will play a critical role in deciding whether the Democrat formally will join the multitude seeking the 2020 nomination.

"We fight for our progressive values. We fight for the dignity of work. It’s who we are. It’s how we govern. It’s how we won. And it’s how we’ll win in 2020," Brown told more than 300 who showed up despite the deep freeze.

But how much above zero are his chances amid the stampede of better-known, better-financed competitors?

"I would not rule out anybody right now in the state of Iowa," says Donna Hoffman, an associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa.

"And especially not a sitting senator who has a wealth of experience and who in particular wants to talk about some of the issues that have resonated in Iowa before — employment issues and social welfare issues and things voters in the state on the Democratic side care a lot about."

A new Brookings Institution study released Wednesday showed Democrats’ attempts to win back Midwestern states such as Ohio “has a higher probability of succeeding” versus any attempt to achieve new ground in Sun Belt states such as Texas. And of course Brown's main selling point is that he won last year in a state easily carried by Donald Trump in 2016.

"If I don’t run for president or if I do, I want 'dignity of work' to be the centerpiece of every Democratic campaign in the country," the Democratic senator said in a conference call Wednesday afternoon with Ohio reporters.

While Trump was far from the focus of his 20-minute talk, which was interrupted by applause a few times as well as a few hoots, Brown didn't hesitate to go after the president.

"Donald Trump has used his phony populism to divide Americans and demonize immigrants. He uses phony populism to distract from the fact that he has used the White House to enrich billionaires like himself," Brown said.

Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University in Des Moines, said Brown isn’t hurt by a lack of name ID among Iowa voters.

“Other than for the hard-core activists, these are just a bunch of guys named Joe and a bunch of women named Jane," Goldford said.

Iowa Democrats tend to see their caucus decision as one between the head and the heart, the professor said.

The head, he said, tries to pick someone practical who can win a general election. The heart? It wants Democratic red-meat, the more liberal the better.

In recent years, the heart has prevailed, he said, with Iowans picking Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008. In 2016, the heart explained why the caucus was so close between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, with Clinton winning by a razor-thin margin.

Brown, despite his progressive politics, is a pragmatic candidate, one who makes the argument that he's got a shot because he's a Democrat who won re-election in a red state last year. Goldford said he's like "a younger Joe Biden" in that respect.

Hoffman says Brown's decision to make his first visit to northeast Iowa "is smart in a lot of ways."

Northeast Iowa, including Dubuque, has blue-collar, manufacturing communities with a large union presence.

"Those are places in particular where his message could resonate," she said.

Brown acknowledged he may have trouble attracting enough people in the Midwest chill to deliver that message.

His first stop Thursday, a Democratic gathering in Cresco, near the Minnesota line, had a forecast low of 32 below Wednesday night. Friday morning brings a roundtable with the Chamber of Commerce in Clear Lake, where it is actually supposed to be a balmy 4 below when he appears. By the time he holds a noontime meeting with farmers in Perry, the mercury is predicted to skyrocket to 19.

Brown's chief of staff, Sarah Benzing, a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa who has worked for several presidential efforts in Iowa, knows the players and is well-aware of how to organize in the state.

Early arrivals at Brown's rally Wednesday were mostly gung ho at the prospect of their home-state senator taking on Donald Trump next year.

Shirley MacFarland, a freelance writer, gave him "a 100 percent chance" of being able to win.

“He’s pro-woman … and I love his wife [Cleveland journalist Connie Schultz]. He’s just a normal guy who I think just wants to do a good job,” she said.

Steve Diedrick, a social studies teacher at Strongsville, said, "I’d vote for a burnt piece of toast at this point” over Trump.

"I actually do think he has a chance. He has a strong message. You look at Trump and he talks about saving jobs, but what has he done, really? Sherrod has a record to show what he has done.”

Brown's kick-off rally was at Supply Side USA, which provides packaging, shipping, moving and storage products to specialty retailers, selling to more than 9,000 outlets in the USA and Canada.