Does Tim Ryan's candidacy matter?
As Ohio awaits a Republican Senate nominee, Democrats debate whether Ohio is off the map for good.
As Republicans in Ohio settle on a U.S. Senate nominee on Tuesday night, Democrats are confronting a simple question as they look to the fall: Can even an error-free race by Tim Ryan be enough for him to swim against the red wave?
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I. Tim Ryan is a very good candidate who is already blatantly breaking with his party on issues like trade and never-ending masking. Even Republicans I talked to were quietly and anonymously impressed with his discipline and messaging.
Tony Fabrizio, one of Trump’s pollsters who has conducted surveys in the state, told me, “Ryan is a good campaigner and formidable candidate.” But Fabrizio believes that Trump’s performance pushed Ohio off the map for Democrats: “Let me put it this way, even the strongest and best swimmer can’t overcome a tidal wave.”
II. Ryan’s campaign acknowledges it needs President Biden’s approval rating to register at a minimum of 42% or 43% to win.
“We’ve got a tough case to make,” a top Ryan-campaign aide admitted to me, speaking anonymously so he could be candid about his candidate’s chances. “If Biden is at 38 percent [approval] on Election Day, we’re not going to win. But if he’s at 42 percent, 43 percent, we definitely have a shot at this.” Morning Consult recently measured Biden’s approval rating in Ohio at a perilous 39 percent.
III. Josh Mandel would be the most optimal opponent for Ryan to draw, given his past statewide loss and record of hyper-inflammatory rhetoric. Democrats won’t say this explicitly, but in my many conversations over the past few months, they hinted very strongly at preferring to run against Mandel. Mandel looked like the front-runner until Trump backed J.D. Vance, but Vance’s late polling bump doesn’t look to be insurmountable. Whether it’s Mandel, Vance or even Mike Gibbons, Ryan’s playbook will remain largely the same >
Talk incessantly about creating a manufacturing policy designed to compete with China. Argue that the Republican Party is more consumed by the fate of Dr. Seuss books than job creation, and be prepared for the GOP’s attempts to nationalize the race, accusing him of wanting to defund the police or contributing to inflation by supporting Biden’s spending. Remind voters that Ryan agreed with Trump’s more protectionist trade policy. Stress his opponents’ wealth—nearly all of the Republicans running are millionaires, and some have links to the off-shoring of jobs.
IV. It may not matter who the nominee is, because Ohio might be gone for Democrats for the foreseeable future. No state moved further away from Ds during the Trump era. Donald won it twice by 8 points after back-to-back wins by Obama. Yes, even Florida remains closer and Dems increasingly see it as a lost cause. Ohio Democrats, as well as Ryan, crow that if national Democrats invested in the Buckeye State as deeply as they did Michigan and Wisconsin, it’d be on the map.
A certain former DNC chair popped off to me about it:
Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who embraced a 50-state strategy when he chaired the Democratic National Committee, thinks it would be an enormous tactical mistake for his party to write off Ohio. “This is nuts not to do this,” he said of national Democrats’ dismissal of the state in the current election cycle. “The voters of Ohio are conservative, but they’re not crazy … This is criminal misconduct in politics if we don’t fund this race.”
But it’s a difficult case to make, given the size of Trump’s margins. That’s why so much is riding on Ryan’s performance in the fall. Even a 2-to-3 point loss in such a difficult environment would hand Ohio Democrats some hope — hope that they’ll be clinging to when Sherrod Brown faces voters in 2024.
Again, the full Atlantic piece is HERE.
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