Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio dropped out of the presidential race today, ending a campaign that sought to champion Midwestern manufacturing workers but failed to gain traction.
Ryan’s exit leaves 18 Democrats in the 2020 race.
“I wanted to give voice to the forgotten communities that have been left behind by globalization and automation, and I’m proud of this campaign because I believe we’ve done that,” Ryan said in a video announcing his withdrawal. “While it didn’t work out quite the way we planned, this voice will not be stifled.”
He said he would run for reelection to his House seat.
Competing in an overflowing field, Ryan — previously known mostly for challenging Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the House Democratic leadership — never really got a foothold. He qualified for the first two debates in June and July with a handful of 1% polling results, but never came close to reaching the higher thresholds that followed.
When he entered the race in April, he argued that he could win back the white, working-class Midwesterners who had flipped from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. His House district includes Youngstown and part of Akron, a stretch of northeastern Ohio long reliant on the auto industry, and his platform focused on the damage caused by the decline of traditional manufacturing.
One of his central proposals was a large federal investment in renewable energy industries, including electric vehicle construction, to create jobs in the places most affected by that decline.
“I’m in a place to really bridge that economic disorientation,” he said in an interview the day he announced his candidacy. “I want a businessperson in Michigan to say, ‘I think Tim Ryan really understands what we need to do around electric vehicles,’ and I want a worker in Michigan going, ‘Yeah, we just lost our job, let’s make electric — that seems like it’s the future.’”
He also argued that food and agricultural policy connected a range of disparate issues, including health care costs and climate change. He proposed shifting federal funding from large agribusinesses to local and organic farms, and creating tax credits and grants for grocers and other businesses that served so-called food deserts, areas where healthy food is unavailable or unaffordable.
After the mass shooting in August in Dayton, Ohio, Ryan spoke forcefully in favor of gun control, telling CNN that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, needed to “get off his ass and do something.” With the advocacy group Moms Demand Action, he led a “caravan” from Ohio to Louisville, Kentucky, where McConnell lives.
Guns were one of a handful of issues — abortion was another — on which Ryan notably evolved during his House tenure. He once had an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, but donated the money he had received from its political action committee to gun control groups after the Las Vegas shooting in 2017.
But his central message was always about the economy.
Ryan described the decline of traditional manufacturing not only as the focus of his campaign, but also as its impetus. He often recounted his daughter calling him in tears after a friend’s father lost his job at General Motors and saying, “You have to do something.”
So, he liked to say, he did something: He ran for president.