Government

Analysis: Ryan Drops Hoyer’s Name as Vote Nears

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Tim Ryan’s national media blitz is designed to convince his colleagues and the the commentariat that Nancy Pelosi is an impediment to making House Democrats the majority and re-establishing the national party’s dominance in the industrial Midwest. The former quarterback knows how to drive to the goal, and in a Fox News interview Sunday, he tossed out the name of Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat.

Detect an audible?

Last week, with the House away for the Thanksgiving break, Ryan’s campaign rented a mobile uplink van equipped with a Youngstown skyline backdrop and scored interviews on countless morning, afternoon and evening cable news programs. He met with or spoke with political reporters and columnists from top-tier newspapers and magazines while dutifully clearing time for the locals and keeping a speaking date Nov. 22 in Girard at the Interfaith Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast.

Ryan called for a new coach to lead the Democratic team, a new game plan for the suddenly changed field of play. His sports metaphors flowed and so did references to the star high school quarterback in write-ups of Ryan’s background. For sure, the 43-year-old Mahoning Valley congressman is attractive and articulate, and his Rust Belt credentials play well for political commentators who love a contest, even when they say it’s no contest.

On Sunday morning, Ryan touched down in New York for interviews on Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday, where he hinted how he could build a coalition to defeat Pelosi.

But first, on Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked, “What is Nancy Pelosi’s fireable offense?”

“We’re not winning,” Ryan replied, relegating Pelosi’s fundraising and legislative skills to the secondary.

“It’s message, messenger,” he said.

“We’ve been [sending] the message wrong since 2010. We’ve got to get the message right. We’ve got to have the right messenger. And we’ve got to have someone who cannot just go on MSNBC, but go on Fox and Fox Business and CNBC, and go into union halls and fish frys and churches all over the country and start a brush fire about what a new Democratic Party looks like.”

On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace tackled Ryan’s assertion that he’s “proposing a platform that could reach out to a lot of the congressional districts that went for Donald Trump in the South, in the Rust Belt, in rural areas. What is it?” Wallace asked.

“We have not had a robust manufacturing platform,” Ryan replied. “Steny Hoyer has a make it in America plan. I think we need to put that – “

“Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House?” Wallace interrupted.

“The No. 2 guy. We need to put that front and center, [talk] about how we resuscitate manufacturing and we need to have discussions about the tax code,” necessary investments, “the next generation of advanced manufacturing” and additive manufacturing.

There it was, the Hail Mary pass. Could it be that Hoyer, the veteran House Minority Whip — for years Pelosi’s top rival — recognizes how Donald Trump’s victory signals that House Democrats should be in the midst of their own change election? Is Hoyer thinking about abandoning Pelosi?

House Democrats — 193 as of this writing — will vote Wednesday on leadership positions. In acquiescing to the push by Ryan and some younger members of the caucus to delay the election until Nov. 30, Pelosi opened her door a crack. She subsequently mimicked some of Ryan’s proposals to share power with younger members, which could be construed as recognition of vulnerability.

Hoyer was elected to Congress in 1981 and represents Maryland’s fifth district. As such, he is among the House Democrats from coastal states presumed to be mostly behind Pelosi, who represents the San Francisco area.

One of Ryan’s knocks on Pelosi and the national Democratic Party is that it’s become a “coastal party” that does not speak to the middle of the country, which turned deep red Nov. 8.

So it is that Youngstown, a city emblematic of lost jobs and disinvestment, provides Ryan — who won his district with 68% of the vote while Trump carried it — with a persuasive setting to challenge the establishment and conventional wisdom.

“I think Tim has a chance [to beat Pelosi] if people look at this thing honestly and see that we are so off message,” says David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party.

“Months ago I tried to warn them they were going off the rails, that the party’s narrative wasn’t meshing with our optics – so this is what happens,” he says. “Trump wins.”

Betras is referring to a memo he sent Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Ohio Democratic Party, which basically was ignored.

“Blue-collar voters’ rejection of trade and Trump’s willingness to demagogue on the issue may well erode HRS’s plurality in areas like the Mahoning Valley, Cuyahoga, Lorain, and Lucas counties and other areas of Ohio and the nation that have suffered significant job losses due to foreign competition. That will clearly put states that should be easy wins for us, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, in play for the general election,” his memo warned.

Betras proposed a multi-media campaign that he described as “blue-collar voters for Hillary, ” which would focus on “the reinvigoration of American manufacturing, and I don’t mean real high tech stuff because they’ve heard that a million times before and they aren’t buying it,” he wrote.

“Talk about policies that will incentivize companies to repatriate manufacturing jobs. Talk about infrastructure — digging ditches, paving roads, building buildings and producing the materials needed to do it all. The workers we’re talking about don’t want to run computers, they want to run backhoes, dig ditches, sling concrete block. They’re not embarrassed about the fact that they get their hands dirty doing backbreaking work. They love it and they want to be respected and honored for it. And they’ll react positively if they believe Hillary Clinton will give them and their kids the opportunity to break their backs for another 10 or 20 or 30 years. Somewhere along the line we forgot that not everyone wants to be white collar, we stopped recognizing the intrinsic value of hard work.”

What Betras told the Clinton campaign and the Ohio Democratic Party is what Ryan has been saying for years, and now echoes nationally on the media platforms his run for minority leader has provided.

Can manufacturing policy elect Ryan the House Democrats’ minority leader?

That’s a question for Steny Hoyer.

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Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.