Election 2020

Ohio Dem: Party Not Realizing 'Just How Toxic' Democratic Brand Is

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) heads to the House floor for votes on April 23, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

The congressman who unsuccessfully challenged Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in House leadership elections warned that in many parts of the country Pelosi is more toxic than President Trump, and that will keep hurting Dems down the ballot.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) got the support of 64 Dems in last November’s closed-door leadership election compared to 134 votes for Pelosi.

“We all have a lot of anger towards what Donald Trump is doing, but we’ve had four special elections, and Donald Trump, 4, Democrats, 0,” Ryan told CNN on Wednesday. “And I hate to admit that. It hurts. It’s painful, but we’ve got to get our act together because there’s a lot of people relying on us. I worry sometimes that we get so obsessed and angered by Donald Trump, which is OK, but you can’t hold on to it because it takes your eye off the ball. We’re not focusing on the economic messages.”

“People in Ohio… aren’t really talking about Russia or Michael Flynn or Putin or anything else. They’re worried about paying the bills, what’s happening with our pension, how much does it cost to send a kid to school, what’s our energy bill like — real bread-and-butter stuff,” he added. “And when we’re talking about Trump so much, you know, we’re not talking about them.”

The congressman emphasized that people in the Beltway aren’t “realizing just how toxic the Democratic Party brand is” in so much of the country.

Ryan said he thought Jon Ossoff in Georgia “was a terrific candidate” and “the energy on the ground in our party is amazing,” but “they’re not only fighting the Republican candidates, they’re also fighting the Democratic brand — and that’s a tough thing to overcome for a lot of candidates.”

“In some sense,” he said, Pelosi sums up that brand.

“As unfair as it is, there have been a lot of people that have spent a lot of money running negative ads against her. And I think that in certain areas, like in some of these special election districts, it doesn’t benefit our candidates to be tied to her. And it’s not fair, but it is true, and there’s a reason why the Republicans are still using it.”

The Ohio Dem said a member of Congress pulled him aside that day and said, “Please tell me you’re not going to get rid of Nancy Pelosi, please tell me she’s not going to retire because that’s who I run against. She’s less popular than Donald Trump in my district.”

“I’m not here crying sour grapes because I ran and lost. It’s not about me. It’s not about Nancy Pelosi,” Ryan added. “It’s about that we have Donald Trump as president now. We’ve done something terribly wrong to make that so. And we’ve lost traditional Democratic voters that don’t see us as connecting to them, don’t see us as advocates for them.”

Ryan argued that the Democratic Party has become so focused on messages tailored toward specific communities, such as minority groups or the LGBT community, that they’re falling shot on a unifying national message.

“What’s the thing that binds all those groups together? It’s an economic message,” he said on MSNBC this morning. “…I feel like it’s those rank and file Democratic union members that voted Democrat for a generation all of the sudden said, you guys aren’t really fixing my issue for me, you know? You aren’t making my life necessarily easier. You’re not making things better. These factories in places like Youngstown, Ohio or Warren, Ohio we used to have 16,000 people, now they have 3. What have the Democrats done?”

“And that’s why Trump didn’t really run as a Republican, that’s why he pulled so many Democrats. He ran as almost anti-establishment, anti-both parties.”