Sherrod Brown was supposed to be too liberal, too vulnerable on key issues, and too comfy in his congressional seat to run for U.S. Senate, let alone win.
Instead, he blew open a tight race and blew out a two-term moderate Republican incumbent.
Mr. Brown rode a populist, anti-war, anti-status-quo campaign to upend U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R., Cedarville) in a race that polls showed tight just one month ago.
"Today in Ohio," Mr. Brown told cheering supporters in Cleveland, "in the middle of America, the middle class won."
The win puts a leading critic of international trade agreements and a proponent of health care reform into the Senate. It casts aside a veteran whom Democratic and Republican colleagues praised for forging compromises on children's health, judicial nominees, and other issues.
"We did everything we could do, but it just was not to be," Mr. DeWine said in his concession speech, flanked by teary family members. "This was not the year. We could not win."
Mr. Brown, a former Ohio secretary of state first elected to Congress in 1992, rebuffed party leaders' requests to challenge Mr. DeWine in 2000. He initially passed on this Senate run in August of 2005, before changing his mind months later.
National Democrats cleared the primary field for him. Almost immediately, Mr. Brown began painting Mr. DeWine as a sycophant for President Bush and a pawn of oil and pharmaceutical companies.
Mr. Brown railed against the Iraq war, which he opposed in the House; the new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, and Republican-championed tax cuts that Mr. Brown said favored the richest Americans at the expense of the middle class. He unveiled plans to cut middle-class taxes and to position Ohio as "the Silicon Valley of alternative energy."
In his victory speech, Mr. Brown said he had dismissed advice to run a more cautious, middle-of-the-road campaign. "It's a risk worth taking to stand up for what you believe," he said. "And it's a risk worth taking to fight uncompromisingly for progressive values."
He added: "We knew that the politics of fear wouldn't work. And we knew the politics of smear wouldn't work. This year, people wanted hope."
In a year when poll after poll showed voters wanting change in Washington, Mr. DeWine centered his campaign on his Senate record.
He pitched himself as a bipartisan fighter for kids and a fountain of federal dollars for Ohio. He and Republicans attacked Mr. Brown as outside the mainstream on national security, taxes, and support for troops in Iraq, and as ineffective in Congress; in the final weeks, they resurrected drug-related scandals among Mr. Brown's employees in the secretary of state's office.
The loss halts a 30-year career for Mr. DeWine, who started as a Greene County prosecutor. He told Republicans in Columbus that Ohio has "unfinished business" and "I intend to play in the future, if God is willing, a role in solving our problems."
Asked if he underestimated Mr. Brown, Mr. DeWine said: "I may have done things in this campaign, but let me tell you, my friend, that's not one thing I did."
Late polls and early returns left little doubt that Mr. Brown would win. By evening's end, the only question - which hinged on a handful of races around the country - was whether he would help form a Democratic majority in the Senate.
Staff writer Steve Eder contributed to this story.
Contact Jim Tankersley at: