Youngstown-Area Rep. Tim Ryan Launches Presidential Bid

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan speaks in Cleveland in 2018.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan speaks in Cleveland in 2018. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
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After months of speculation, Northeast Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan is running for president. Ryan announced his plans before an appearance on The View Thursday morning.

Ryan joins a crowded fielded of 15 announced Democrats, plus a few likely candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden and California Congressman Eric Swalwell.

The 45-year-old, eight-term congressman from the Youngstown area says on his new campaign website that he plans to focus on public education, health care and the economy.

In his appearance on The View, Ryan focused on two themes: repairing a divided country and stopping the loss of blue collar jobs.

“This has been going on a long time, our country has been divided for a long time,” said Ryan. “And I can go back to the late 1970s when my father-in-law lost his job when Youngstown Sheet and Tube closed.”

Ryan came to some national prominence in 2016 when he challenged Nancy Pelosi for leadership of the House Democratic caucus. The bid failed, but he was able to win 63 votes.  

Clare Malone, politics writer for the website 538, said Ryan’s an interesting candidate because of his outspoken opposition to Pelosi and calls for more outreach to blue collar voters on the one hand.

“But, on the other hand, he does have a voting record that’s pretty liberal for his district,” said Malone.

She added that there’s also a surprising side to Ryan. For instance, he’s written a book about practicing mindfulness in the workplace.

“Where a lot of people probably just assume, well, it’s Tim Ryan. And he’s from Jim Traficant’s old district. This guy’s obviously going to be a certain kind of politician,” Malone said, referring to the late populist Congressman. “But you know he could confound people’s expectations in a very interesting way.”

Ryan has spent his time in Congress focused on labor issues and was an outspoken critic of General Motors’ recent decision to close a plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

David Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Akron's Bliss Institute, has watched Ryan’s career for years and said the congressman’s understanding of trade and manufacturing issues shouldn’t be underestimated.

“And he’s also a really good campaigner. He’s great on the stump,” Cohen said. “He is somebody that can get a crowd riled up. He’s very good speaking with a prepared speech but particularly off-the-cuff.”

According to Cohen, had Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown entered the race, he would have run on a similar pro-labor platform. But his decision to stay out opened the door for Ryan.

“That’s probably the moment he started to really think seriously about getting into the race,” said Cohen.

But, according to Malone, in a Democratic field that could grow to as many as 20 candidates, it’s impossible to guess who will make it deep into the race.

“I think that Ryan also faces a lot of pretty stiff competition in the form of somebody like, say, Joe Biden, who will probably get into the race, someone like Beto O’Rourke or Pete Buttigieg,” said Malone. “So I think he’s going to have an interesting, if a bit tough, climb into this race.”

The first of 12 Democratic primary debates is in June. To qualify, Ryan will need to either poll above one percent in three polls or meet a grassroots donations threshold established by the Democratic National Committee.

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