President Donald Trump has opened the door for Democrats to win back the House of Representatives in 2018, Rep. Tim Ryan said Thursday morning, but “it’ll be very hard” to do with Nancy Pelosi in place as the party’s minority leader.
Ryan (D-Ohio), who mounted a failed challenge to unseat Pelosi as House minority leader last year, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that his party has developed a “toxic” national brand that will increase the degree of difficulty for Democrats running to unseat incumbents in Republican districts. Already in the slate of special elections to replace Trump cabinet members, the GOP has worked to tie Democratic candidates to Pelosi, a maneuver Ryan said has been successful.
“I think it will be very hard, Sam. I just — you know, we can do it because it’s Donald Trump, but I mean, you think, what if it was John Kasich? What if it was Marco Rubio? I mean, we would be in real trouble right now as a party, and we can’t forget that fact,” Ryan responded when asked by “Morning Joe” panelist Sam Stein if Democrats can win the House with Pelosi in charge.
“It’s going to be more challenging, certainly. You see these commercials that tie these candidates to Leader Pelosi week in and week out in the last several months. That still moves the needle, you know?”
Ryan said what Democrats need to be successful is a more focused economic message on a national scale to reconnect the party to working class Americans that have drifted towards Republicans in recent years. A progressive economic message would unite an otherwise disparate Democratic base, Ryan said, bringing together African-American and Latino and women and LGBT voters because “we all want economic opportunity for our families.”
Outside of a progressive economic message and being “tolerant and inclusive,” Ryan said Democrats must also be willing to tolerate some dissent from candidates running in deep-red districts on issues like gun control and abortion. Demanding ideological purity will only put Democrats at a disadvantage, he said.
“We’re asking candidates in these deep red districts to battle the Republican party,” Ryan said. “We’ve got a lot of energy in our base, which is very exciting for a lot of us to see that on the ground, but you’ve got to beat the Republican and you’ve got to carry this very toxic Democratic brand on your back, too. That’s a tough thing to ask a candidate running for congress.”