Politics

Ryan Takes His Long Shot. ‘Best Bet’ Against Trump?

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Fox News analyst and former state Sen. Capri Cafaro asserted Thursday that U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan is probably best positioned among the Democrats competing to be their party’s nominee for president to unseat President Donald Trump, even as Republicans sought to dismiss his viability as a candidate.

Ryan, D-13 Ohio, formally announced he was seeking his party’s nomination for president on ABC’s “The View” Thursday morning. He joins more than a dozen Democrats now running for the nomination, not including former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to decide if he will run.

“It’s a really exciting time for the Mahoning Valley and for Ohio,” Cafaro said. Ryan is “uniquely positioned as a Democrat to connect with” Democrats who crossed over to support Donald Trump for president in 2016. At the same time, he can connect with “a broader electorate” during the primary in places like Brooklyn or San Francisco because of his activities in mindfulness, she observed.

During his appearance on “The View, ” then last night on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time,” Ryan emphasized the need to bridge longstanding divisions in the country that prevent the political system from being able to “solve the big problems.” Although he acknowledged Democrats need to provide oversight to the Trump administration – House Democrats are seeking the president’s tax returns – the party’s agenda has to be about issues that unite the country such as creating jobs, reversing climate change and growing the economy through emerging technologies like wind, solar and additive manufacturing, Ryan said.

As he did on “The View,” the congressman told Cuomo how the lack of a national industrial policy has affected the Mahoning Valley — from the closing of the steel mills in the 1970s up to today. He shared how his daughter called him a few weeks ago from school, crying as she told him her friend’s family had to move because of the idling of the General Motors Lordstown Complex.

“This is unacceptable. It’s been going on for 40 years and we’ve failed to put an industrial policy together in the United States that stops the bleeding,” Ryan told Chris Cuomo. “I’m going to do that and I’m going to focus on that.”

President Trump “has made a lot of hollow promises” to workers and “hasn’t fulfilled any of them,” GM being the latest example, he continued. Farmers haven’t made a profit for five years, he said. His goal is to get the manufacturing, rural and inner city areas of the country to recognize that “we’re all in the same boat and as long as we’re divided, we’re all getting screwed,” he said. “If we come together, build a coalition, we can build a new economy.”

To accomplish that, he emphasized putting together a plan that speaks to those constituencies’ best interests and is focused on the future. For example, the electric vehicle market is expected to go from two million units this year to 30 million a decade from now. China now has 40% of the electric vehicle market, Ryan said.

“We’re divided, so we have no plan, we can’t come together,” he said. “If you bring in the private sector – I don’t think Democrats should be hostile to free enterprise – we can solve these big problems but we’ve got to come together first.”

Coming from the industrial Midwest, Ryan said he can win Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, and “rebuild that blue wall that President Trump took down” in 2016.

The 2020 electoral map will be the same as four years earlier, and whoever wants to beat Trump must win Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, Cafaro said.

People see Ryan as “the 45-year-old Joe Biden,” someone who can connect with those individuals across the Midwest by understanding their concerns and the “dignity of work,” she observed. Even if Biden enters the race, Ryan would be competitive, according to Cafaro. And because he is viewed as a more centrist candidate, he will be able to draw broader support than some of the more progressive candidates in the field.

“He has the opportunity bring together a unique coalition of support that the current candidates may not be able to do,” Cafaro said.

“If Democrats want to beat Donald Trump, he is probably our best bet.”

Dave Green, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, which represents workers idled at the General Motors Lordstown Complex, said he told Ryan it would be great if someone like him ran for president.

In response, Ryan smiled and said he was thinking about it, he recalled.

“I’m ecstatic,” Green said. “He’s done an amazing job. What really sets him apart is he’s middle of the road. He works across the aisle.”

Green also praised Ryan as someone who is pro-business and stands for working people and labor.

“If people get to know him, they’re going to support him,” Green said. “He’s such a down-to-earth person.”

David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, said Ryan told him his decision about a week ago. Asked about Ryan’s prospects in the already crowded Democratic field, he noted that Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton was “a one percenter” when he entered the 1992 presidential race which he ended up winning.

“No one thought Donald Trump would win. So you never know what’s going to happen,” Betras said.

Trump won in 2016 because of 77,000 votes in three states – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – and nothing Betras has heard from any of the other declared candidates makes him think they can shift those votes back into the Democratic column, he said. He is confident Ryan can reclaim those working-class voters.

“He’s been representing these people for years and knows their struggles and their concerns,” Betras said. “He talks their talk.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who many analysts saw as a strong potential challenger to Trump because of his success in Ohio and his emphasis on workers, announced in March he would pass on a 2020 presidential bid after exploring one for several months.

“I’m glad we have so many great Democratic candidates running,” Brown said an email response to a request for comment. “I hope every one of them will talk about the dignity of work because that’s how we win and how we should govern.”

David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said the party won’t endorse a candidate in the Ohio primary. “We believe having an open, robust primary is good and healthy and will lead to a stronger eventual nominee,” he said.

“That said, Tim Ryan brings something valuable to the conversation – an emphasis on working people and economic issues,” the state party chairman continued. “We have to take the fight to Trump about who has a better vision for America’s future, about who is going to help communities like Lordstown, Ohio, or Flint, Mich. — places that feel like they’ve been left behind or forgotten. Tim Ryan has spent his career in office fighting for those communities.”

Within minutes of his announcement, national and state Republicans issued statements that criticized Ryan and his record in Congress.

“The fact that they are trying to take shots at Tim Ryan shows they are concerned,” Cafaro said.

Michael Ahrens, Republican National Committee communications director, described Ryan as a “backbencher” with “no chance of becoming president.” A graphic “cheat sheet” on the GOP website characterized him as being best known for losing twice to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – “the least popular politician in Washington” – perennially seeking higher office but going “nowhere” and passing no significant legislation.

“You can just add him to the long list of liberal candidates demanding government-run health care, and it underscores how radical and out-of-touch this Democratic field truly is,” Ahrens said.

Evan Machan, Ohio Republican Party communications director, similarly alluded to Ryan’s losses to Pelosi, who he called “one of the least popular politicians of our generation,” as well as his lack of legislative accomplishments.

“Tim Ryan is a weak congressman and will be an even weaker candidate for president,” he said. “His support for government-run healthcare and the Green New Deal shows just how radical the Democratic field of candidates truly is.”

Later in the day, Mahoning Valley GOP leaders weighed in on Ryan’s candidacy.

Mark Munroe, former Mahoning County Republican Party chairman, said in an email that by most accounts Ryan is “an attractive and generally well-liked member of Congress,” but characterized his congressional career as “mostly unremarkable.”

He also took issue with Ryan’s claim on “The View” that he knows how to win in working-class districts.

“The reality is that Ryan’s success has more to do with geography,” he said. “He was elected in a district that was designed for a Democrat where winning is relatively easy.” While the congressman will provide “an interesting contrast to the really wacky candidates that are emerging from the left who make Ryan sound not quite so extreme,” that might not be sufficient “to win votes from the radical leftists who are taking over the Democratic Party,” Munroe cautioned.

“I’d be a little nervous if I were him – he won by 20 points less in 2018 versus 2016 against a first-time candidate with no name recognition – and if you extract the urban precincts from the tally, he wouldn’t have won at all,” said Kevin Wyndham, chairman of the Trumbull County GOP. He also pointed out Ryan “carried his own backyard of Howland Township with less than a 3% swing. That is not a strong foundation to leap from the congressional house to the White House.”

Wyndham called Ryan’s announcement “one of the worst kept secrets” in the area. While the congressman “seems like a nice guy and a good father,” Wyndham doesn’t see him as “a viable presidential candidate.” He appears more “mainstream” than some of his fellow candidates by comparison, which would benefit him in most election cycles, that doesn’t appear to be “where the Democrats are positioning themselves as of late,” he said.

,“If he makes it through the minefield of primary season, come November of 2020, he’d probably do well on the coasts, but he’ll have a difficult time selling himself to the rest of the country,” he added. “Based on his congressional track record and some of his position shifts, he’d have a difficult time even carrying his home state which has proven to be solidly red.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.