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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

Ohio’s Tim Ryan drops out of the 2020 Democratic presidential sweepstakes

Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tim Ryan announced on Thurs­day that he was drop­ping out of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial sweepstakes.

The con­gress­man from Ohio’s 13th Dis­trict had con­sis­tent­ly strug­gled to raise both funds for his cam­paign and find trac­tion in pub­lic opin­ion research polls.

Tim Ryan speaks to labor groups in Iowa

Tim Ryan’s cam­paign failed to make an impact on the elec­torate (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Ryan took part in the first two rounds of debates (in June and July), but ris­ing donor and polling thresh­olds kept him off the stage in the lat­er rounds (in Sep­tem­ber and Octo­ber). He has failed to get more than 1% in most polls.

Ryan’s cam­paign focused on win­ning back white work­ing-class vot­ers in the indus­tri­al Mid­west. Ryan rep­re­sents a dis­trict in west­ern Ohio, a region that swung for Trump in 2016 after a long his­to­ry of being a reli­able Demo­c­ra­t­ic stronghold.

2016 was also the year in which Ryan rose to nation­al promi­nence by chal­leng­ing Nan­cy Pelosi for the lead­er­ship of the House Democ­rats. Ryan argued that the Democ­rats’ then-recent pres­i­den­tial defeat showed that the par­ty as a whole need­ed new­er, younger lead­er­ship. Pelosi defeat­ed his chal­lenge only after promis­ing to give new­er House mem­bers lead­er­ship opportunities.

Ryan launched his bid for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion in April 2019.

His cam­paign mixed eco­nom­ic pop­ulism with pro­gres­sive ideas, attempt­ing to craft a mes­sage tai­lored to Mid­west­ern vot­ers. Ryan promised to bring jobs back to the country’s man­u­fac­tur­ing heart­land through gov­ern­ment invest­ment in renew­able ener­gy and elec­tric vehi­cles, and he argued that agri­cul­tur­al pol­i­cy had broad­er appli­ca­tions in areas such as health­care and cli­mate justice.

Ryan’s polit­i­cal plat­form large­ly con­sist­ed of pol­i­cy planks that are wide­ly accept­ed with­in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty: rais­ing the min­i­mum wage to $15 per hour, expand­ing stu­dent debt for­give­ness, uni­ver­sal back­ground checks for gun pur­chas­es, and legal­iza­tion of marijuana.

How­ev­er, Ryan’s ideas dif­fered from pro­gres­sive can­di­dates’ in a num­ber of areas: he declined to sup­port Medicare for All; his rhetoric on the eco­nom­ic con­se­quences of immi­gra­tion sound­ed almost Trumpian at points; he sup­port­ed increased defense spend­ing; and he offered praise for Trump’s weaponiza­tion of tariffs.

In a con­test that has been large­ly defined as a bat­tle between can­di­dates with old-fash­ioned neolib­er­al ideas (pri­mar­i­ly Joe Biden) and those with bold pro­gres­sive plans (such as Eliz­a­beth War­ren and Bernie Sanders), Ryan strug­gled to find a com­fort­able place for him­self in the large Demo­c­ra­t­ic field.

Ryan’s depar­ture from the pres­i­den­tial race is like­ly to put pres­sure on sim­i­lar­ly under-per­form­ing can­di­dates to drop out; of the eigh­teen Democ­rats remain­ing in the race, only nine have qual­i­fied for November’s debate in Geor­gia. The qual­i­fy­ing can­di­dates are Joe Biden, Eliz­a­beth War­ren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Har­ris, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Stey­er, Andrew Yang, Cory Book­er, and Amy Klobuchar.

The can­di­dates who have not made the cut for November’s debate are Beto O’Rourke, Tul­si Gab­bard, Julián Cas­tro, Michael Ben­net, Steve Bul­lock, John Delaney, Joe Ses­tak, Mar­i­anne Williamson, and Wayne Messam.

For­mer H.U.D. Sec­re­tary Julián Castro’s cam­paign has already sent out dis­tress sig­nals, call­ing on sup­port­ers for at least $800,000 in dona­tions in a recent email. The cam­paign has said that Cas­tro may drop out as ear­ly as the end of October.

As for the oth­er can­di­dates in the bot­tom half of the field, many have hard ques­tions to face as the race con­tin­ues – espe­cial­ly those who hold elect­ed posi­tions. Tim Ryan has decid­ed to run again for his con­gres­sion­al seat in 2020.

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