SHERROD BROWN AND CONNIE SCHULTZ
Power couples in America and spanning the globe, tend to be defined by glitz and glamour.
After all, implicit in the term is a certain je ne sais quoi, that sets this breed apart.
A backdrop amalgam of money, mystery, status, renown and beauty — inside and out — some of which may be hard to quantify, is — simply stated — in place.
You can see it, you can feel it and it’s so present, you can almost touch it.
The recognition of the power couple has been around since the dawn of time.
Remember Cleopatra and Mark Antony?
The epic romance between the Egyptian Queen and the Roman statesman inspired the tragic Shakespearian play, first performed in 1607.
A bit more contemporarily, the decade of the ’50s offers a revealing and apt jumping-off point, in an effort to identify, and then to understand, the iconic power couple.
After getting married in 1951, crooner Frank Sinatra and actress Ava Gardner were blinded by the glare of the media spotlight.
By ’52, Gardner was getting bigger roles in movies, such as Kitty Collins in “The Killers” and Pandora Reynolds in “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.”
Husband “Ol’ Blue Eyes” was well on his way to establishing and securing his legacy as the 20th century’s greatest singer.
His mercurial rough patches and whatever was ailing her, resulted in a divorce after 12 years of marriage.
They never got over each other completely and later on, Sinatra called Gardner “the only woman I’ve ever been in love with in my whole life.”
Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were hot on their heels, as were Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn.
In 1955, it was Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds — parents of Carrie Fisher (who with Paul Simon, knew a thing or two about all of this) until someone named Elizabeth Taylor caught Fisher’s eye.
Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier had the camera shutters clicking feverishly.
Kelly, an Academy Award-winning actress (“The Country Girl,” 1954) decided to forsake Hollywood to become the Princess of Monaco in 1956, following a year-long courtship with Prince Rainier III, culminating in “the wedding of the century.”
Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood were thrust into the limelight: he a leading man, and she the recipient of three Oscar nominations before turning 25.
Turning away from Hollywood for a moment, President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie enjoyed a union — though smeared by the scandal of rumored infidelities — still revered six decades later.
Certainly, one of the greatest political couples of all time.
Bacall and Robards.
Gould and Streisand.
Taylor and Burton.
Sonny and Cher.
Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon.
Elvis and Priscilla.
Cash and Carter.
Lennon and Yoko.
McCartney and Linda.
Sutherland and Fonda.
JT and Carly.
McQueen and MacGraw.
Nicholson and Huston.
Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton.
Cher and Gregg Allman.
Reynolds and Sally Field.
Jagger and Jerry Hall.
Ryan O’Neal and Farrah Fawcett.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
Charles and Diana.
Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne.
Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley.
Sean Penn and Madonna.
Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.
Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet.
Willis and Demi.
Bacon and Sedgwick.
Bowie and Iman.
Cobain and Love.
Hanks and Wilson.
Danson and Steenburgen.
Ripa and Consuelos.
Will and Jada.
Pitt and Aniston.
Jolie and Pitt.
Timberlake and Spears.
Biel and Timberlake.
JLo and Affleck.
Cruise and Holmes.
Ellen and Portia.
Urban and Kidman.
Jay-Z and Beyonce.
Kim and Kanye.
Legend and Teigen.
Harry and Meghan.
ARod and JLo.
Sherrod Brown and Connie Schultz.
This may be the quintessential power couple of them all, with apologies to Doris Kearns Goodwin and her late husband, Richard.
Because we are talking about a marriage of brains and brawn — in the form of clout — sparing the baubles and bangles.
Sherrod Campbell Brown is an American politician and academic, serving as the senior United States Senator from Ohio, a seat to which he was first elected in 2006.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer and journalist and a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate.
She worked at the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 1993–2011 but resigned; being a politician’s spouse represented a conflict of interest.
Rumpled and unvarnished, what you see is what you get with Brown, and what you get is a fiercely loyal Midwestern stalwart with a progressive agenda.
He is protective of the heartland and upon his third-term triumph in the 2018 crucial battleground, he was the only major Democrat to win a statewide seat in Ohio.
Almost immediately, some in the party began to wonder if Brown had the secret to retaking a state that seemed to be steadily slipping from Democratic grasp.
A swing state fighting off a reddish hue.
Throughout his political career, he has championed populist platitudes like the “dignity of work,” which resonate with working-class voters in all corners of Ohio, while also supporting liberal social causes, such as women’s reproductive rights and the rights of the L.G.B.T.Q. community.
Brown projects a grizzled authenticity replete with his trademark gravelly voice rasping out a piercing crescendo for effect, where necessary.
It endears his brand of progressivism even to some conservative voters.
His suits are made just miles from his home in Cleveland.
He cites scripture at rallies.
He wears a canary pin on his lapel — symbolic of workers’ rights (and in salute to, as well as in protection of, those who make things in America) — given to him by a steelworker.
Naturally, he has an enduring passion for the Cleveland Indians.
He has a dog named Franklin who is a canine social media star and had a leading role in one of the senator’s campaign ads.
“I don’t buy the left or right,” Brown has said.
Politicians could be progressive on social issues and still win in Ohio, “but you have to be authentic about whom you fight for and what you fight against.
That’s just who I am.”
Across Ohio, affection for Brown runs deep.
Voters recall how he has long stood up for union workers.
Party officials praise his ability to connect with everyday Ohioans.
And in spite of decades-old abuse allegations related to a messy divorce from his former wife, Larke Recchie — who has publicly refuted them and continues to support him and his political career — with his history of fighting for workers and speaking the heartland’s language, he just may find himself to be presidential timber down the road.
Schultz, the 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner in Commentary for her “pungent columns that provided a voice for the underdog and underprivileged,” seems to think so.
The possibility was considered leading up to 2020, and could very well appear on an upcoming election docket.
Schultz, in her own inimitable fashion, acknowledged as much by posting messages on social media expressing that she and her husband had “been overwhelmed by the number of people that have come forward and said, ‘You’ve got to run. You have the right message. You come from the right state.’”
That was then, in 2018.
It didn’t happen.
This is 2021.
The 2022 midterms loom.
Then there is 2024.
Schultz, the author of three books: one a collection of her columns; the second, “…And His Lovely Wife: A Memoir from the Woman Beside the Man,” exploring what it’s like being married to a U.S. Senator and to Brown in particular; and the latest, “The Daughters of Erietown,” her first novel, a multi-generational family saga set in a fictional town in Schultz’ native northeast Ohio, now has plenty of experience functioning as a political wife.
In a June 2020 interview with The Columbus Dispatch promoting the novel, she explained.
“Because I’ve had so many years to get used [to being a political wife] — we’ve been married sixteen years — it doesn’t affect me like it used to when any headline or subhead about me was that I was married to him…It’s a challenge still as a political columnist. I always have to disclose that I’m married to Sherrod…During this pandemic we were together 45 straight days and it really struck us that we really like each other’s company.”
Sounds like a pretty good recipe for a behind-the-scenes power couple — no frills and fancies — to ultimately take center stage.
[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in March 2021.]