Since Tim Ryan’s initial bid for Congress in 2002, Ohio has evolved, and so have the possibilities for a Democrat actually running in the state today.
“The impression of the party is substantially different today than it was when I began,” Ryan remarked plainly in an interview.
Ryan is the anticipated Democratic Senate contender in Ohio, with a strong chance of defeating Morgan Harper, an attorney and former senior counsel at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in the party’s primary on Tuesday. While the Republican race is far murkier — author J.D. Vance is seen as the front-runner after receiving former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, but a number of other candidates are vying for an upset — Ryan is gearing up it a far more difficult task in November: running as a Democrat in a deep red state during what is expected to be a difficult election cycle for the party.
Now for years actually, Ohio Democrats have tried to persuade national party leaders that the state isn’t hopeless, but election after election has complicated that message. Since 2008, no Democrat has won a nonjudicial statewide post in Ohio save Sen. Sherrod Brown, and President Barack Obama this was the last Democratic presidential contender to win Ohio in 2012. In 2020, Democrat Joe Biden made history by becoming the first candidate in 60 years to win the White House again without winning his home state.
The current trends have many Democrats questioning if it is even worth running for national office in Ohio anymore, essentially writing off a state that was once seen as a major political bellwether.
According to Ryan, the responsibility rests but with the same national public Democrats who are now portraying Ohio as a hopeless cause.
“We haven’t made a good job only as a party of informing people that we are fighting for them, and we haven’t implemented the policies that were required throughout the years. As a result, many Democrats in important areas have moved away “Ryan, who is running for the first time in a statewide election, said.
In many respects, Ryan’s political narrative is the story of Ohio. In 2002, the Democrat was elected to Congress for the first time, representing a Northeast Ohio district that includes his birthplace of Niles, as well as Democratic strongholds Youngstown and Warren. Ryan originally dominated his campaigns, especially in his home county of Trumbull, but as Republican dominance in Ohio rose, his margins started to shrink. Ryan received just 53% of the vote in 2020, his lowest showing in his district since his first election in 2002. (when his Democratic predecessor, James Traficant, ran as an independent and siphoned off 15 percent of the vote).
In Trumbull County, the movement was most noticeable. Until Trump campaigned for president, Democratic presidential candidates received over 60% of the vote there for most of Ryan’s time. Trump shocked Ohio’s political landscape when he won Trumbull County by 6 points in 2016. Four years later, he repeated the feat by winning the county by ten points.
Trump, according to Dan Polivka, former chairman of the Trumbull County wing of the democratic party, is an example of how a sluggish political movement can accelerate in only a few election cycles.
“Some of the local polls became tainted by national problems,” Polivka said of the 2016 and 2020 elections. “I still believe there is a strong Democratic base in this area and that a decent Democrat would get a lot of support. However, national concerns are now filtering down to the local level, which has never occurred before.”
Ryan has been considering leaving the House for years. After earning a second term in 2018, he considered running for president, which he did in 2019. Ryan’s campaign was short-lived; owing to poor polling, he only fully qualified for 2 Democratic candidate debates, and his campaign ended less than an a year after it started.

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