Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) announced a presidential bid Thursday, emphasizing education, health care and the economy as he joined a diverse group of Democrats looking to take on President Trump in 2020.
In his first television interview as a candidate, Ryan cast himself as a “progressive who knows how to talk to working-class people” and said he could win back Rust Belt states lost to Trump in the 2016 election.
“That means Donald Trump is going back to Mar-a-Lago full time,” Ryan said on ABC’s “The View,” referring to the president’s Florida estate where he often spends weekends.
On a website that debuted Thursday, Ryan, who has a reputation in Washington as a moderate Democrat, highlighted issues of public education, affordable health care and “an economy that works for all of us.”
Ryan, 45, is one of the younger candidates in the crowded field. He ran an unsuccessful campaign against Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-
Calif.) for House speaker in 2016 and has long positioned himself as an advocate for blue-collar workers.
He will face significant challenges in the presidential campaign, including introducing himself to a national audience, finding a fundraising base and distinguishing himself from the many other members of Congress in the running.
During his television interview, Ryan said he had been moved to run by stories of laid-off workers and pledged to help them by ushering in a new economy. He also was critical of his own party for writing off rural voters.
“We stopped going to rural America,” he said. “We stopped going to these rural towns.”
Ryan signaled that although he is campaigning as an advocate for working-class Americans, he also is intent on bridging divisions and will be a champion of the free market.
“I think this country is divided. I think we’re not focused on the issues that people are really concerned about — how they’re going to have retirement security, how they’re going to have enough to make their house payment,” Ryan said in an interview with Fox News Channel in late February.
Ryan represents a congressional district in northeast Ohio where the manufacturing industry has experienced setbacks, most recently with General Motors’s decision to wind down operations at a plant in Lordstown.
Trump easily won Ohio in 2016, spurring a Democratic debate about the best strategy in 2020 for what traditionally has been a prized swing state.
Ryan’s campaign against Pelosi came after a presidential election that disappointed many Democrats in Ohio. She defeated him by a wide margin in a contest that could receive renewed attention on the campaign trail.
Ryan’s record on abortion also may come under scrutiny. He once opposed abortion rights, before announcing in 2015 that he had changed his mind and supported them.
Ryan was first elected to the House in 2002. Before becoming a member of Congress, he served in the state Senate and was a congressional aide.
During his appearance on “The View,” Ryan declined to say whether former vice president Joe Biden should more explicitly apologize for his past behavior involving close contact with women that has come under heightened scrutiny.
“That’s for him to decide. He has his own style,” Ryan said.
Ryan said that he considers himself a “pretty friendly guy” who likes to shake hands and give hugs and kisses.
“You just got to be careful,” he said. “I certainly try to never cross that line and never will.”