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Tim Ryan is running for president. He wants to be the Democratic answer to Trump in the Midwest.

The Ohio congressman says a GM plant closure in his district is a reason he’s running.

Rep. Tim Ryan speaks at a news conference on auto jobs in November 2018 on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Tim Ryan speaks at a news conference on auto jobs in November 2018 on Capitol Hill.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Tim Ryan, the Ohio congressman who challenged Nancy Pelosi to be House minority leader in 2016, is ready to chase another of America’s top political offices: He’s officially running for president in 2020.

Ryan announced his bid through a new website, moments before he was set to appear on ABC’s The View to make his formal announcement.

On his campaign website, Ryan outlines his decision to run for president and specifically cites the closure of a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, which is in the congressional district he represents.

“When our local GM factory was shut down last Thanksgiving, I got a call from my daughter who was consoling her friend whose father was an autoworker and was just laid off. My daughter said to me, with tears in her voice, ‘You have to do something,’” Ryan wrote.

“That’s why I am running for president,” he added. “It’s time to do something.”

Ryan is staking out a position as the candidate best suited to outmaneuver President Donald Trump in one of his key strengths in 2016. Trump spent that election promising to save manufacturing jobs in America’s Rust Belt and Midwest, and he won states including Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

But factory closings have still happened during Trump’s presidency, and now Ryan is taking aim at Trump for something the president promised would never happen under his watch: manufacturing plants in Ohio going dark and employees losing their jobs.

Ryan’s message? Trump hasn’t kept his promise. But the Ohio congressman — a close ally to unions and organized labor in his district — is vowing he will.

“There’s so much change — globalization, automation, cultural — I don’t really think either party has really wrapped their arms around all of these dynamics and put a cohesive message together,” Ryan told Vox last year. “Trump obviously did it in a concise way, but he hasn’t delivered on any of that stuff. He promised, but he kind of got what the main problem was, but no solution anywhere near helping solve those problems.”

GM’s Ohio plant closure hit close to home for Ryan

Last November, GM announced that it would shutter up to five plants in the US and Canada as part of a restructuring plan to cut costs by $6 billion by 2020. One of the plants it said it would close was Lordstown — and it did just that on March 6, resulting in about 1,500 workers being laid off. GM made the Chevy Cruze, a small sedan, there, and the plant had been limping along for a while as the demand for those types of cars among American consumers has fallen.

Ryan called GM’s announcement on the closure “devastating” and slammed the company. “Thousands of families have sacrificed to build GM into what it is today. And in return, GM has turned its back on us when we need them the most,” he said.

Trump, too, has weighed in on the plant closure and tried to push GM to reopen it. He has prodded GM CEO Mary Barra to find a solution and tried to blame local union leaders for the closure. (Trump did not, however, respond to two letters from union leaders asking for help on the plant.)

Ryan has urged Trump to request funding for a Department of Energy domestic manufacturing conversion grant program, which provides grants and loans to car manufacturers looking to produce hybrid and advanced diesel vehicles, arguing that GM’s Lordstown plant would be a “prime candidate” for the money.

Thus far, GM has not reversed course on the plant closure. And a month after the facility shuttered, he’s announcing his presidential bid.

Ryan’s platform is tailored to “the solutions that exist”

“It’s time for us to start building the America we deserve,” Ryan’s presidential website reads. “An America that invests in public education, affordable health care and an economy that works for all of us. An America united by a shared vision for our future.”

Ryan is planning to run on his experience as a Democrat who has represented a working class Ohio district since 2003. Ohio is a swing state that has seemed to trend more red in recent cycles; it went for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but went red for Trump in 2016 and showed few signs of swinging back to blue during the 2018 midterms. Ryan, who says he counts Trump supporters among those who voted for him, believes he can appeal to both parties.

As such, his opening pitch to voters doesn’t contain calls for Medicare-for-all or tuition-free college. Instead, Ryan is casting himself as someone looking for sensible solutions to the problems America faces in rising health care and education costs and saving good-paying manufacturing jobs.

“As I travel through Ohio and the country, I’ve been inspired by the solutions that exist,” Ryan’s website reads. “On every issue, from manufacturing, to health care, to schools and education, to taking care of and healing our vets, I find brilliant Americans who are innovating and creating REAL solutions.”

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