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Ryan vows to stay in race

Won’t participate in upcoming Dem debates

WARREN — U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan won’t be on the Democratic presidential debate stage Oct. 15 and will almost certainly miss the November one, but he said he plans to stay in the race until at least the end of February.

“That’s the plan and then we’ll see where we are,” he said. “This isn’t a one-off thing. We’re going to stay in the game.”

Ryan, D-Howland, said he’ll remain a presidential candidate for the Feb. 3 Iowa caucus, the Feb. 11 New Hampshire primary, the Feb. 22 Nevada caucus and the Feb. 29 South Carolina primary.

As for what would be a satisfactory outcome, Ryan said, “It depends on how many people are in the race. The goal is to exceed expectations. I don’t know what the expectation is right now.”

Ryan participated in the first two Democratic presidential debates — which had lower thresholds — but failed to qualify for the third debate, Sept. 12, and won’t qualify for the fourth debate, Oct. 15 in Westerville. That’s because the threshold increased for the third and fourth debates. Candidates needed at least 130,000 unique donors with a minimum of 400 different donors from at least 20 states, and at least 2 percent support in four qualifying polls.

Ryan had about 13,000 donors as of June 30, his most recent campaign finance report. While that’s grown, Ryan won’t say by how much. But it’s not close to 130,000.

Also, Ryan hasn’t reached 2 percent in any qualifying poll.

The deadline to qualify for the Ohio debate is 11:50 p.m. today so Ryan has no chance to make it. Twelve candidates qualified.

Ryan’s campaign has sent numerous fundraising emails urging supporters to donate money to get him on the debate stage.

But Ryan said the debates right now aren’t that important.

“The debates aren’t having the impact people thought they’d have,” he said. “I’m not really that disappointed I won’t be at the debate. There wasn’t any real chance to get in. We’re going to the early states and focus on that. These artificial qualifications are just that — artificial. At the end of the day, it will be who’s connecting in the early states and we’re doing that.”

The threshold for the November debate — a date hasn’t been selected — is at least 3 percent in four qualifying polls, or 5 percent in two approved polls in the four early-vote states, and at least 165,000 unique donors with a minimum of 600 different donors from at least 20 states. Ryan almost certainly won’t qualify.

Ryan spent Saturday and Sunday campaigning in South Carolina. Later this week he’ll be in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Ryan is tied for 14th place at 0.5 percent with ex-U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland among the 19 remaining Democratic presidential candidates, according to RealClearPolitics.com. All qualifying polls — nationally and in early-voting states — have Ryan between 0 percent and 1 percent.

“I don’t take much stock in the polls,” Ryan said.

Raising money was an issue for Ryan in the second quarter as he collected $889,398.86 between April and June, the least amount for any of the 20 Democratic presidential candidates on the stage during the first two debates.

The third quarter ended Monday with candidates having until Oct. 15 to file campaign finance reports for the time between July and September.

Ryan said he had “no idea” if he did better in the third quarter than he did in the second.

“We have a very lean operation and we’re getting calls from people to help us,” he said. “The strategy is to stay in the game. (U.S. Sen. Kirsten) Gillibrand had a huge staff and blew through money and she’s out. We’ll have enough money to run the campaign.”

Gillibrand of New York was among five low-polling Democratic presidential candidates to drop out of the race since mid-August. Ryan expects others to also quit and for the race to change, pointing to the rise of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and noting that former Vice President Joe Biden is no longer the clear frontrunner.

“We’re going to grow the campaign,” he said. “We’re starting to get people today who weren’t calling me back a month ago. They’re reading the tea leaves, and Biden is starting to struggle.”

Ryan lost his national organizing director, Zach Fang, to entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who’s qualified for all of the debates, and has once again changed his communications director.

Ryan said a new national organizing director will be selected shortly and he’s hired Dennis Willard, who heads Precision New Media in Columbus, to handle communications.

Willard started the company in 2010 after a lengthy career as a newspaper reporter. Willard has done communications work for numerous Ohio Democratic candidates and committees and has also done so in 10 other states as well as work for nonprofits and in the private sector.

Willard, a Mahoning Valley native, said he will do communications work for Ryan until the candidate finds a permanent replacement and then will be a communications consultant for the campaign.

“I’ve been a big supporter of him,” he said. “I want to raise the awareness of who he is and what a powerful leader he can be.”

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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