Tim Ryan Vows To Keep Democrats on Economic Message

Pelosi challenger says party lost its focus in 2016

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, seen at the Democratic National Convention in July, thinks Democrats got away from a strong economic message in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan is vowing to keep Democrats on a strict economic message and have a “street fight” with President-elect Donald Trump, if necessary, should he knock off Nancy Pelosi to be House minority leader next year.

“When we don’t talk about elections, we lose elections,” the seven-term congressman told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. 

Ryan announced his challenge to Pelosi on Thursday and argued on Sunday that the party got away from a national economic message and instead focused on issues such as the Zika virus that only played in specific regions. 

Even issues like gun violence in cities, Ryan said, come down to economic anxieties. 

“I can’t, in good conscience, hang this election around Nancy Pelosi’s neck, of course,” Ryan said, when asked why the economic issues that Democrats did talk about this year may not have resonated. “But, moving forward, we have to win congressional seats in areas of the country that voted for Donald Trump, even in my district, where they voted for me and they voted for Donald Trump.”

Ryan represents Ohio’s 13th District, which President Barack Obama carried by nearly 30 points in both 2008 and 2012. 

Ryan cast doubt on the idea that Democrats could work with Trump on an infrastructure legislation, as Pelosi, the day after the election, had suggested might be possible. Trump’s infrastructure plan, Ryan said, “looks like a bunch of smoke and mirrors.”

He promised to stand up to Trump if he threatens Democratic priorities. 

“If he tries to defund Planned Parenthood, if he tries to kick people off their health insurance, if they try to privatize Medicare or cut taxes for the wealthy, you know, we are going to have a Youngstown street fight in the Capitol,” Ryan said. 

Later on Sunday, New York Rep. Kathleen Rice endorsed Ryan for minority leader on Twitter

"He has a lot of good ideas, but maybe most importantly, he also isn’t suggesting he has all the answers — he has stressed that he wants these conversations to be ongoing, that he wants more voices in the conversation so that we can work together to craft our message and forge a winning strategy," Rice said in a statement. 

Leadership elections for the House Democratic caucus will be held on Nov. 30. 

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