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By Lauren Egan

BRUNSWICK, Ohio — Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio kicked off his “Dignity of Work” tour in record-setting freezing temperatures here Wednesday night, focusing on worker rights and attacking Donald Trump for “phony populism.”

“[Trump] uses his phony populism to distract from the fact that he has used the White House to enrich billionaires like himself,” Brown told a crowd of over 300 supporters. “Real populism is not racist. It’s never anti-Semitic,” Brown said, adding that true populists “don’t rip babies from their families at the border.”

Following its launch in Brown’s home state of Ohio, the tour heads to Iowa for a weekend of meet-and-greet events and roundtable discussions. The senator will also make stops in the key early-voting primary states of New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina before making an official announcement of his decision whether or not to launch a presidential bid in March.

“The dignity of work means hard work should pay off for everyone, no matter who you are or what kind of work you do,” Brown said Wednesday. “Corporate profits have soared. Executive compensation has exploded. Workers are producing more than ever before, but their wages are flat. Washington doesn’t even understand what collective bargaining is all about.”

Brown won his first campaign in 1974 at 22 years old when he was elected to the Ohio state legislature. He then became Ohio’s secretary of state and went on to win a House seat in 1992 where he served for 14 years. In 2006, Brown beat out the Republican incumbent by 12 points to win a seat in the Senate, where he is now serving his third term.

In Brunswick Wednesday night, those in the audience told NBC News that their support for Brown boiled down to his consistency.

“He was my congressman when I was growing up,” said Stephen Hanudel, an Ohio criminal defense attorney. “He’s always been for economic justice. He’s always been consistent. He doesn’t just pay lip service.”

“I think he would make a good president,” said Skip Pollak, a retired teamster. “He is for the people, for the workers. Always has been.”

Brown will be joined by his wife Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist, in Cresco, Iowa Thursday evening for his first out-of-state stop on the tour.