After A lackluster perfor- mance in the first Democratic presidential debate last week, Mahoning Valley Congressman Tim Ryan must come out swinging at the next gabfest or his campaign could die on the political vine.
There are 23 Democrats competing for the party’s nomination and the right to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
Trump has a definite advantage in money and a loyal political base as he seeks a second four-year term. Although he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, he still received the support of 62.9 million Americans – Clinton garnered 65.8 million votes.
Democrats must come to terms with the reality that Trump won 304 electoral votes to 227 for Clinton.
The Democratic Party is acutely aware that Trump, a self-acclaimed billionaire real-estate developer from New York City who had never run for public office, succeeded by appealing not only to Republicans, but to blue-collar white voters in regions like the Mahoning Valley.
Ryan, a resident of Howland who has been in Congress for 17 years, had an up-close look at the Trump phenomenon in this region. The Republican presidential nominee carried predominantly Democratic Trumbull County and almost won in heavily Democratic Mahoning County.
But the congressman also has the unique perspective of how Trump swayed voters in traditionally Democratic areas by making promises he has failed to keep.
That should be the congressman’s underlying argument for his candidacy, namely that under Trump’s presidency General Motors has padlocked its 53-year-old car assembly complex in Lordstown and eliminated 4,500 good-paying jobs in the Valley. Companies that had contracts with GM also cut their payrolls.
The economic impact of GM’s decision will be felt for many years and could be as high as $1 billion. This, in a region that has spent the last three decades trying to overcome the economic devastation triggered by the end of major steel production. In all, the jobs of 50,000 Valley residents were affected.
Huge steel mills
Trump also promised to resurrect the huge steel mills that once dotted the banks of the Mahoning River. Not a shovel of dirt has been turned.
Rep. Ryan has a strong argument to make for being the voice of blue-collar workers, but he has to raise that voice to be heard over the cacophony of the crowded Democratic presidential field.
During last Wednesday’s debate, he came across as too timid and too respectful of the other nine candidates on the stage.
As a result, he received comparatively little air time, while the more aggressive contenders talked over others and even ignored appeals for decorum from the panel of NBC journalists asking the questions.
Ryan, who has a compelling story to tell as the congressman from a region of the country often referred to as the Rust Belt, should know that his next appearance in a debate could be his last.
We have supported his bid for the Democratic nomination for president because of his favorite-son status and the fact that in one of his appearances on national TV he went for President Trump’s jugular.
In talking about Trump’s broken promises to the Valley, Ryan, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, made note of the billions of dollars Trump is paying farmers to make up for the loss in revenue from his ongoing trade war with China and other countries.
Ryan told the national audience that the president should pledge $1 billion to upgrade the Lordstown complex so GM can use it to build electric cars.
Instead, the president is supporting a ludicrous plan unveiled by GM CEO Mary Barra that would create about 400 jobs – if the plan ever came to fruition.
Trump and Barra announced that GM is prepared to sell the Lordstown assembly complex to Cincinnati-based Workhorse to build electric trucks.
But that’s a far cry from when the giant automaker produced hundreds of thousands of cars over a half century. Indeed, the Chevrolet Cruze, which the company discontinued building in order to shut down the plant, was one of GM’s top-selling vehicles.
In the weeks leading up to the July 30 and 31 debates in Detroit, we would urge Ryan and his campaign advisors to develop a strategy that will not only give him more visibility, but will grab the attention of the national press.
The congressman faces an enormous challenge in his bid to become a top-tier candidate, which is why he should be better prepared to mix it up in the forthcoming debate than he was last week.