You would be forgiven for mistaking Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio for Seth Moulton, the 40-year-old representative from Massachusetts who is also running for president, and who joined Ryan in a leadership challenge to Nancy Pelosi back in 2016. You might also be excused for confusing him with Eric Swalwell, a similarly aged congressman from California turned presidential candidate. Or, if you squint, maybe even John Delaney, an older, significantly wealthier former congressional backbencher from Maryland, who is also—you guessed it!—running for president.
But Ryan is, as they say, his own person. He’s got his own set of campaign priorities and a particular vision for the country that he’s intent on communicating to the American public at the first Democratic-primary debate on Wednesday night. The question is: How does a politician who has never participated in this kind of high-profile event, and whose apportioned time in the national spotlight will likely add up to no more than a few scattered minutes, plan to stand out in the comically large—and somehow still growing—field of presidential hopefuls?
I asked Ryan this question on Tuesday morning. His response was simple: He plans to use his allotted speaking time to introduce himself to voters. After all, he’s not polling well. In most national polls, he’s not even clearing 1 percent, and about 64 percent of voters say they haven’t heard of him, or have no opinion about him, according to the latest Morning Consult survey data. “I want to make sure people walk away [from watching the debates] with the fact they know my sole goal is to become president to rebuild the middle class and help the working poor,” Ryan said, adding that he’ll talk about “who I am, where I come from, and the fact that I’ve been representing these forgotten communities in the country for a while.”