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Long-shot Ryan plays long game

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan has a plan for his presidential bid, but does his long-shot campaign have momentum to last?

As long as Ryan’s campaign stays lean and he doesn’t burn through his limited funds, he can remain in the race.

But surviving is not an effective way to run for president of the United States.

He desperately needs to grow his campaign, and so far, he hasn’t shown signs of that. He recently made a solid addition hiring Dennis Willard to handle communications. But that’s not a permanent hire, and Ryan’s communications department has changed hands numerous times in its six-month existence.

Ryan, D-Howland, points out that Bill Clinton didn’t get into the 1992 presidential race until October 1991 and went on to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency. However, politics has significantly changed since then. Anyone getting into the presidential race now — the equivalent of Clinton in 1991 — wouldn’t have a chance of capturing the nomination. Also, while Clinton wasn’t well-known when he ran for president, he was governor of Arkansas. Ryan is a congressman from the Mahoning Valley.

Also, Ryan continues to struggle to raise money and improve his polling numbers.

His showing in the polls has declined since he entered the race back in April. He’s not even at 1 percent nationally and is at the back of the pack among Democratic presidential candidates.

Ryan dismissed it, saying, “I don’t take much stock in the polls.”

He points out that the race is far from settled, mentioning that former Vice President Joe Biden is no longer the clear frontrunner. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has surged in recent weeks to challenge for the top spot while Biden still leads in most polls. It looks like it’s a two-person race between Biden and Warren, with Sanders in a distant third and no other candidate even close to double digits.

Ryan said Warren and Sanders are far too liberal to get elected as they want to eliminate private insurance and replace it with “Medicare for All,” and both want to ban fracking.

“You ban fracking, and Pennsylvania and Colorado become lean Republican states,” he said. “That can’t be the position if we want to win. If the position (they) are taking stays the same, it’s going to be very hard to beat (Republican President Donald) Trump.”

Five low-polling candidates have dropped out of the Democratic presidential race since mid-August, and more will certainly quit before the early states have their primaries and caucuses in February.

Ryan’s strategy is to stick it out until at least the end of February, running in the caucuses in Iowa and Nevada and the primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina during that month. He said a respectable showing in those races will elevate his candidacy.

But finances and low polling numbers remain huge obstacles for him.

Sanders raised $25.3 million in the third quarter. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., reported raising $19.1 million in the third quarter. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California collected $11.6 million between July and September. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey raised $6 million in the third quarter, including $2.1 million in the final 10 days of the quarter. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang collected $10 million, and even U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet picked up $2.1 million.

Ryan hasn’t reported his total for the third quarter, but it’s certainly not going to be close to what others have raised. He collected $889,398.86 in the second quarter, the least amount for any of the 20 presidential candidates who participated in the first two debates — and less than two who didn’t qualify. It’s not going out on a limb to state Ryan won’t raise during his entire campaign what Sanders did in the past three months.

The issues of money and polling kept Ryan off the debate stage last month and will do so again later this month and almost certainly in November when the threshold to qualify increases again.

Ryan said the debates haven’t done anything to help candidates who’ve had “moments” during them, including Booker and Harris.

While true, it’s better to be a part of the discussion than to not meet the minimum requirements to be a debate participant.

And let’s not forget that Ryan also plans to run for re-election to a 10th term in the U.S. House. There are three declared Republican candidates, though none have ever won a political office. Filing deadline for the congressional seat is Dec. 17, two months before Democrats vote in early presidential states.

Skolnick covers politics for the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator edition.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com