HH: My first today is, gasp, an elected Democrat, and not just any Democrat, but House of Representatives veteran Tim Ryan, who represents Ohio’s 13th Congressional District, the Mahoning Valley, the heart of the country’s historic Western Reserve, the Steel Valley, we call it, those of us from #TheLand. In fact, Ryan, a member of the power House Appropriations Committee, is a graduate of this famed institution, John F. Kennedy High Shool, which is also my high school. Tim Ryan played quarterback a few years after graduating from Kennedy. I did not. Ryan, you may recall, challenged Nancy Pelosi to be the House minority leader earlier this year, came close. Thank goodness, he lost, and House Democrats returned the San Francisco liberal to her job. I think it’s good, because Ryan might otherwise be well along in the project of reconnecting Democrats to their blue collar union roots, and might be sitting on some special election wins right now, not an unbroken record of losses since President Trump took office. President Trump, by the way, knows that this area of the country, and that this demographic, was crucial to his victory in 2016, and his base of support even today, which is why come Tuesday, President Trump will be back again in Northeast Ohio at the Covelli Center in Youngstown, to be specific, at 4pm on Tuesday. Welcome, Congressman Tim Ryan, and go Eagles. Good to see you.
TR: Blue pride, Hugh, thanks.
HH: Blue pride. Congressman, do you think that there is a single Democrat not named Joe Biden who could fill the Covelli Center like President Trump will fill it on Tuesday?
TR: I’m sure Barack Obama probably could. But that probably would be it at this point.
HH: Well, what does that say about, and by the way, do you think those people who will turn out to see President Trump on Tuesday also voted for Tim Ryan? Do you think there are a lot of Trump-Ryan voters out there?
TR: Well, Hillary got about 51% in my district, and I did in the 60s, and I think the mid-60s this time, so there was, I think, a 15, 16, 17 point delta between the Hillary voter and the Tim Ryan voter, and those were Trump and Tim Ryan voters. So there’s no question about it, a lot of working class people who just feel the Democrats aren’t quite connecting to them.
HH: And that is who interests me the most. Who are those people, and why does your party seem to have contempt for them?
TR: Oh, I don’t think there’s contempt for them. I just think we have gone down this road of what I call the over-consultification of the political process, this micro-targeting of voters where there’s no broad aspirational economic message. And so we got in the habit of talking to, you know, Latinos about immigration, and African-Americans about voting rights, and women about choice. And you know, once you go down that road, then you’re splintered. And what you need in order to win, and I think the one thing Trump did well is have a big, broad, bold economic message. He was talking about a trillion dollar infrastructure bill, expanding health care through Medicare and Medicaid, bringing costs down for people. The problem, Hugh, is he hasn’t delivered on any of those things, and he’s actually moving in the other direction. So that’s the real problem with Trump. He got the marketing piece right, and he’s not doing anything policy-wise to help him. That’s why he’s coming back to get on the marketing tour again in Youngstown and get the rhetoric going. But we need some action here. We need some help.
HH: Let’s stick with your party for a second, Congressman Ryan.
HH: Joe Crowley is the chair of the House Democratic Caucus. This week, he got asked what’s the core message, and he said, “that’s being worked on.” It’s July, Congressman Ryan. When’s it going to come out?
TR: Well, there’s a lot of us, we have a core message. It’s wages, it’s jobs, it’s growth, it’s not having a party that’s hostile to growth in business, because we need those people to make investments and hire our people. It’s about lowering health care costs. The bottom line about the new Democratic Party, in my mind, Hugh, is that we’re about putting money in the pockets of people, whether it’s increasing their wages or lowering their health care costs, or lowering their energy costs. We’re about putting money in the pockets of average people. And I’ve been working the district now the last few days back recently, and that’s all people want. They just want a shot. They want a job. They want a good job. And sometimes, and this is a criticism that I have, that we get too focused on the minimum wage. You know, we’re all for an increase in the minimum wage, but that’s not the aspiration of the Democratic Party. The aspiration of our party is for working class people to make $25 or $30 bucks an hour, have a solid pension, and affordable health care, and enough quality of life, enough time off to have a little fun, you know, to make sure you get to your kids’ soccer match, or baseball game. I mean, to me, at the end of the day, that needs to be a part of our agenda, too.
HH: How many people are walking up to you, Tim Ryan, in Niles, Warren and Youngstown talking to you about Russia? What percentage are saying hey, Congressman, I’m really into that Russia thing?
TR: I spent the entire day here yesterday, Hugh, in Youngstown, Akron, Barberton, not one person.
TR: And so I think the Russia issue is very, very important. This is not to diminish the issue. The two committees in the House and the Senate both headed up by Republicans, and Mueller’s investigation is critically important, and central to our democratic process. There’s no question about it. But we need to focus on jobs, economy, health care, because back in places like Youngstown and Barberton and Akron, Ohio, people are talking about jobs, wages and growth.
HH: Let me ask you about the leadership of your party – Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, these are not spry, young, new faces on the stage out there. When do you turn the page, Congressman Ryan? I’ve heard you say you’re not interested in challenging Nancy Pelosi again. But it looks to me like your party has just got to turn a page to a new generation of leadership. Do you agree with that?
TR: I don’t think there’s any question. And you know, I’m still being very vocal. I’m still traveling. I’m still going on TV. I’m personally trying to go to places that Democrats haven’t gone in a long time. I’m going to be in Kentucky, I’m going to be in Mississippi, I’m going to be in Alabama. I was down in South Carolina. So I’m one younger member trying to go to these places to reconnect with our party. But we’ve got young stars like, you know, Hakeem Jeffries and Seth Moulton and Joe Kennedy. And we’ve got some real young stars coming up, and they’re starting to get more and more profile. And so we’re starting to turn the page. But you know, Hugh, you’re a Cleveland Browns fan. These transitions take some time.
HH: I hope the Democrats’ transition takes as long as the Browns, Tim Ryan. Let me ask you about Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, a couple of your superstars. I think they’d play well in The Land. What do you think?
TR: No question about it. You know, meeting them, talking to them, they’re very clear in their messaging. I think they come off very well. They’re very grounded, very down to Earth. So I think they would be great candidates, no question about it. And they’re very, very smart, and I think they’re on the side of working class people. And that’s really the discussion we need to have. We don’t need to concede progressive values, in my estimation. I know, Hugh, you may think we do, but I don’t think we need to concede our progressive values in order to connect to people, because at the end of the day, I think our progressive values, economically, are the things that will help those union workers get back to work.
HH: Last quick question, Tim Ryan, do you think you need to concede the Democrats have got to come out and talk to conservative media? You always show up on my radio show, but I think sometimes the silos are pretty airtight for Secretary Clinton and the senior Democrats. They don’t like to mix it up. They don’t like to talk like this. What’s your advice to everyone?
TR: We’ve got to do it. There’s no question about it. You know, I think, I don’t know if it was growing up in the area we grew up in, Hugh, I mean, where you had Republicans in your family, you’d talk to them, you’d have civil discussions, whether it was at our Catholic high school, where you had liberals and conservatives both in the faculty and on the staff, and you could have kind of conversations with. Democrats need to go on other networks. Democrats need to go on Hugh Hewitt radio and others who are going to give them a fair hearing. In all honesty, there are some conservative talk show hosts, you go on and they don’t allow you to talk. They don’t allow you to get your point across. You’re certainly not like that, but I encourage all Democrats when you look at a show, you say well, yeah, he may be a conservative talk show, but maybe 30% are Democrats. Maybe 20% are independents. Those are the people that we need to get back in the fold or convince them why our practical approach is best. But you can’t, you know, you’ve got to go into hostile territory sometimes if you’re going to win over voters, and we’ve got to start making that happen more, which is why I’m going to Kentucky, I’m going to Indiana, I’m going to Mississippi and Alabama, because I believe if you go to those place, you let people know you care about them, and you’re concerned with where they’re at in the world, and you want to help them, and you want to present to them your plan on how you can help them, they’re going to give you a fair hearing. And then it’s up to us to convince them that our positions are best.
HH: Boy, I’m so glad you lost, Tim Ryan. But have a great weekend in The Land. Stay well in Warren.
TR: It’s always your friends that get you, Hugh.
HH: Coming up, thank you, Tim Ryan.
End of interview.