By David Skolnick
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said he’s interested in running for president in 2020 but won’t make a decision until after his November congressional re-election bid.
“People are saying, ‘You need to look at this,’” Ryan said Thursday in an interview with The Vindicator. “People think I’m the type of person who can connect to the 40 or 50 [congressional districts] we need to win in November. People believe I’m the guy to carry that message. We’ll look to see where the chips fall.”
Ryan of Howland, D-13th, said, “I’m sick of [Democrats] losing. People we represent get forgotten and ignored by the politicians. The people I represent need to start playing offense. I want to try to do that at a higher level. I’m interested in being in that conversation.”
When asked about the millions of dollars needed to run a successful presidential campaign, Ryan said, “I have not thought that far down the line. But it is gross that anyone running for office now has the first hurdle to overcome is how much money you need to raise. That speaks to how broken the system is.”
The Intercept, a news website, published an article earlier this week that Ryan “has been telling political consultants and operatives that he intends to run for president” in 2020, according to multiple anonymous sources.
Ryan said Thursday that his interest came from people approaching him about running for president.
“People were just talking about it” to me, he said. “It’s more them coming to me and saying I need to do something; so, of course, I’m listening. It’s great people see me as that person. It has a lot to do with the [political] climate, and the Pelosi thing played into it; being contrasted with her and for being from the Mahoning Valley and not from the coasts. People in our party are looking for someone to take the mantle. There’s a little bit of a buzz about it.”
The “Pelosi thing” is Ryan’s challenge in November 2016 to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi beat Ryan 134-63 for the position, but the Mahoning Valley congressman continues to garner national media attention appearing on cable television news shows and campaigning throughout the country for Democratic candidates, primarily those running for the U.S. House.
Ryan had repeatedly said he didn’t plan to challenge Pelosi again after this election, but said that changed with the defeat last month of Rep. Joe Crowley of New York in a Democratic primary. Ryan said he’s close to Crowley – House Democratic Caucus chairman, the No. 4 Democrat in House leadership – who was seen as a potential successor to Pelosi.
“I had totally ruled it out and Joe Crowley lost, so I said, ‘I’m not going to close the door,’” Ryan said. “I didn’t close the door, but I’m not actively pursuing it. I’d run if I thought I could win.”
When asked about the possibility of running for House Democratic leader this year and president in 2020, Ryan said, “I have no idea. We have the buzz, and we’ll focus on what we’re doing and take it from there. We’ll see where it goes after the November election. We’ll figure out what goes on in November. The leadership election isn’t until the first week of December.”
Ryan has to first defeat Republican Chris DePizzo of Cuyahoga Falls in the general election before he could consider the leadership post.
He also hired Pete D’Alessandro, a top Iowa adviser to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders during his 2016 Democratic presidential bid, as a consultant.
D’Alessandro “is the kind of guy who can help the Democratic Party shape its message,” Ryan said. “I’ve got him to help campaign. My team is going to be made of people who come from areas like here – that have been left behind.”
Ryan has visited several key presidential-election states such as New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, Michigan and Indiana.
“I’m trying to get to areas that look like ours,” he said. “Where that goes post-November, I don’t know. But I’m interested in being part of that conversation. Some Democrats don’t understand why people voted for [President Donald] Trump. I understand why. It’s because people feel both parties left them behind.”
Trump did well in Ryan’s district, losing by 6 percentage points to Democrat Hillary Clinton. Ryan was re-elected to an eighth two-year term in 2016 by 36 percentage points.
Republican National Committee spokeswoman Mandi Merritt said, “Tim Ryan’s claim that he’s the candidate that can appeal to middle America and beat President Trump in 2020 is laughable. Tim Ryan can’t even win enough support from his own party to beat failing Nancy Pelosi, let alone win the support of the nation.”
Ryan will attend the opening ceremony today for the new $7.3 million combat arms training management firing range at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna.