clock menu more-arrow no yes

Tim Ryan’s 2020 presidential campaign and policies, explained

Tim Ryan speaking at a microphone.
Tim Ryan speaks at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame Dinner in June.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Tim Ryan, an Ohio Congress member, yogi, and longtime Nancy Pelosi antagonist, has shifted his focus from House leadership to the presidency.

One of several candidates who’s leaned heavily into his Midwestern bona fides, Ryan is making the case that he can do what Trump hasn’t been able to: save jobs in places that are still losing them. As part of his pitch, Ryan argues that Trump hasn’t kept his promise to rejuvenate towns and states still reeling from a shifting economic landscape. But the Ohio Congress member, 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.”

Ryan also suggests that he’s the Democrat who can reach members of the base as well as Trump voters who are closer to the middle. For now, his lackluster polling numbers — he’s tracked at roughly 1 percent in the Morning Consult Democratic primary poll since declaring — indicates that this message is only resonating with some voters.

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 $6 billion in costs 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 an Energy Department 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. Cut to one month after the facility shuttered: Ryan announced his presidential bid.

What are Tim Ryan’s policies?

“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 running 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 redder 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 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.”