Sherrod Brown has made the point for years. He doesn’t have a consuming drive to be president. So it follows that the U.S. senator and Cleveland Democrat announced last week he would not enter the 2020 presidential race. During his 26 years in Congress, 14 as a U.S. House member, he has become increasingly effective as a legislator, something less appreciated in the analyses about how he fares well with voters, winning a third Senate term in November, the only Ohio Democrat to hold a non-judicial statewide elected office.

To seek the presidency requires a rare, all-encompassing ambition. Yet Brown had reason to think seriously about making the plunge. He won re-election by 6 percentage points, just two years after Donald Trump captured the state by 8 percentage points. Would a Brown candidacy give Democrats the edge they need to recapture states in the industrial heartland while also rallying a progressive base eager to hold the president to one term?

Might the senator still smartly add to the party ticket?

From a campaign perspective, there was much to overcome. The senator lacks the national profile of others in the race, many with a head start in laying the groundwork, including the massive task of fund-raising. Joe Biden cast a shadow, with a similar appeal plus the echo of the Obama team, though the former vice president also carries the baggage of two past presidential runs marred by his poor performance as a candidate.

Brown chose a most Brown-like way to test the waters. His Dignity of Work tour in early caucus and primary states had the feel of what he has done around here, meeting with smaller groups, the senator spending much time listening. More than anything, he appeared interested in leveraging his position to help define the purpose and direction of his party.

In that way, the senator’s aim seems similar to the role John Kasich wants to play in the Republican Party. The difference? The Democratic presidential candidates are showing signs of listening to Brown.

As news accounts have noted, U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey have folded “dignity of work” into their campaign appearances. Democrats make a big error if they do not embrace the concept. Yet the moment requires more — in the shape of detail about how to affirm dignity or address the problem of so many workers coping with stagnant wages, failing to see pay that reflects the value they bring to the workplace.

A disproportionate share of new income has been flowing to those at the highest income rungs. That helps explain what Policy Matters Ohio found: Six of the 10 most common jobs in the state pay so little a family of three must seek food assistance. Brown advocates, among other steps, a higher minimum wage, an increase in the child tax credit, an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit and paid family leave.

The point isn’t that each Brown position sparkles. This editorial page long has disagreed with his views on trade. Rather, the worthy aim is to reward work more fairly and deal with income inequality during a prolonged and rocky economic transition.

The senator isn’t pitching radical, pie-in-the-sky ideas. Which gets to another aspect of his tour worth highlighting, Brown, the pragmatic progressive. He has resisted calls for a sweeping Medicare for all and Green New Deal. If he shares the larger objectives, he understands it matters how the country gets there. The senator knows from experience what it takes. He knows how to win in Ohio.