U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan is attracting national media attention for his potential run for president in 2020.
He’s appeared on CNN, NBC, MSNBC and Fox News, and been featured in a number of major political publications and websites about his possible bid.
Ryan of Howland, D-13th, raised his national profile with his November 2016 challenge to Nancy Pelosi as the House minority leader.
Ryan lost 134 to 63, but since then his appearances on cable news shows has significantly increased. That’s allowed him to discuss the issues facing his district, particularly the Mahoning Valley, on a larger platform.
Ryan was one of a handful of leaders in a fight last year to stop Pelosi from becoming speaker of the House. The plan might have worked had the group been better organized and had an opponent for Pelosi.
Ryan at one point considered a run against her, but abandoned that idea and with no one else stepping up, Pelosi outmaneuvered her Democratic opponents.
Ryan and the group cut a deal in mid-December to back her for the job after she agreed to term limits. But they could hardly claim victory as Pelosi probably isn’t going to remain in the House longer than the term-limits agreement will last.
During all of this, Ryan has continuously said that he was considering the presidency in 2020.
Ryan told me last week that he was giving strong considering to a bid because “I have a voice that needs to be heard.”
Ryan was in New Hampshire, the first presidential primary-election state, this week. He’s been a frequent visitor to the state, where he attended law school. I’m sure he’ll return to New Hampshire several times in the future.
Ryan will also be in Iowa, the first state with a presidential caucus, at the end of March, though he said he might get there before then.
He’s been to South Carolina, an early presidential state, and I don’t doubt he’ll go back there too.
But realistically what are Ryan’s chances of winning the presidency?
Probably next to none.
History is certainly not on Ryan’s side.
The only person to go directly from the U.S. House to the presidency was James A. Garfield in 1880 when Republicans nominated him as a compromise candidate.
And Garfield was a rather prominent House member having previously served as a major general in the Union Army during the Civil War and was elected to the U.S. Senate before running for president. He never served in the Senate as he declined the job after being elected president.
Ryan told me: “I won’t run if I don’t think I can win. I’m not in this for therapy or a vanity project. I’d run to make a difference in people’s lives.”
I don’t doubt Ryan’s sincerity, but he can’t win.
First, his name recognition is considerably lower than several of the other candidates looking to gain the Democratic nomination for president.
Ryan has said other longshot candidates such as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were all elected president. However, the first two were governors and Obama was a U.S. senator. Ryan represents 1/16th of Ohio’s population in the House.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat considering a run for president, has successfully run statewide four times – three times for senator and once for secretary of state – and has spent his life in politics.
Yet Brown’s national name recognition is low in comparison to other U.S. senators seeking the Democratic nomination such as Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kamala Harris of California.
In several parts of Ohio, where Ryan has been a congressman since 2003, he’s a virtual unknown so you can imagine what his name ID is nationally despite his increased profile in the past few years.
Then there’s money.
Ryan has never been a prolific fundraiser during his nine successful campaigns for Congress.
How is he going to be able to financially compete with those who have larger national appeal?
Sanders raised $5.9 million during in the first 24 hours of his campaign for the presidential nomination.
Despite all the challenges, Ryan has little to lose by seeking the presidential nomination.
He’s said if he runs for president he would also file for re-election to his House seat – and remains a heavy favorite to return to Congress.
But with the Lordstown General Motors complex set to close shortly and all of the economic challenges facing his congressional district, Ryan’s time is probably better spent concentrating on those issues than traveling to New Hampshire and Iowa.