Politics

Ryan Discusses Debate Performance, Court Rulings

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said he’s satisfied with his performance during Wednesday night’s presidential debate.

The Mahoning Valley congressman, who shared a Miami stage with nine other Democrats seeking their party’s nomination, dismissed criticisms of his performance and weighed in on two U.S. Supreme Court decisions during a phone interview Thursday afternoon.

Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said he succeeded in getting his message out about the middle class during the two-hour, nationally televised debate. “That was the goal at the end of the day, to really communicate that we’re representing these forgotten communities, and that’s where we want to be,” he said.

The congressman said he’s pleased he was able to interject proposals to add mental health counselors and establish social and emotional learning programs in schools during a discussion about guns, a discussion he said is making the rounds on the internet.

Additionally, the campaign saw an uptick in contributions during the debate, although he was not certain by how much.

Some media reviews were less favorable. A Cleveland Plain Dealer story reported that the congressman “seemed like an afterthought to the moderators” and “rarely spoke and failed to interject himself” into the forum.

“That cuts against the facts,” based on the time all the candidates got, Ryan responded.

According to the Washington Post, Ryan’s total speaking time of 7.7 minutes was sixth among the 10 candidates Wednesday night. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey had the most speaking time, 10.9 minutes, followed by former congressman Beto O’Rourke (10.3 minutes) and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The candidate with the lowest speaking time – 5 minutes – was Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Ryan spoke about a minute more than U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-2 Ohio, with whom he sparred over remaining engaged in Afghanistan, an exchange he acknowledged surprised him.

“We cannot allow those swaths of land to go unchecked because groups like the Taliban will harbor terrorists like they did before 9/11 and after 9/11,” he said. He accused Gabbard of showing “poor judgment” over dining in 2017 with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is accused of gas attacks on his own people, including children.

“He’s a war criminal and she’s having dinner with him. So I think that says all you need to know about her judgment,” he said.

Ryan pointed to his appearances Thursday on MSCBC’s “Morning Joe” – which he said is the top-rated morning show for Democrats — and “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” as indicators that potential voters were responding to the message he shared during the forum.

“We’re a heck of a lot farther ahead than we were yesterday,” he remarked. “We got a lot of good press leading up to this, a lot of media attention, and we’re hoping to continue to convert, but I’m seeing results. People are talking about the campaign and like the working class message. It’s resonating with the vast majority of Americans that are paying attention. We’ve just got to keep it rolling.”

Ryan said he would return to the Mahoning Valley for the weekend then head back to New Hampshire and Iowa next week.

During the phone interview, Ryan expressed his support for a Supreme Court ruling that blocks the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census and blasted a separate ruling on partisan gerrymandering.

“The court had to rule that way. It’s pretty clear [the Census] is about knowing who is in the country, not necessarily knowing who is a citizen,” he said.

He characterized the gerrymandering ruling as “a brutal decision” and “a gut punch” for citizens.

“The fact that these districts are gerrymandered is not good for democracy,” he remarked. “It’s got politicians basically picking their constituents instead of constituents picking who they want to represent them.”

Rulings such as these bring home the importance not only of who is president but who controls the U.S. Senate, whose members confirm Supreme Court justices.

“That’s what I was trying to get across,” he said. While Democrats largely agree on issues such as health care, climate change and immigration and reform, they keep losing elections and Republicans appoint justices to the high court.

“If we don’t win elections, if you’re not connecting with workers in the country, you’re not going to have enough power to appoint justices and you’re going to get totally hammered in the courts,” he warned.

The Republican National Committee leveled criticism at Ryan for his debate performance, sharing links to the Plain Dealer article and others critical of him.

Among its criticisms was that Ryan was “advocating for a complete government takeover of health care,” was “lurching to the left” by agreeing that illegal border crossings should be decriminalized, his criticisms of the economy and for his exchange with Gabbard, in which he appeared to say the Taliban attacked the United States on 9/11.

“The Taliban was protecting those people who were plotting against us,” Ryan said later in the exchange.

“On a night where Tim Ryan was desperately hoping to have a breakout moment, he instead misfired, coming in at one of the worst debate performances of the night,” said Mandi Merritt, RNC regional communications director.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.