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A year ago, U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH) was an obscure backbencher Congressman. He has since become a national figure, first for his consideration by Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for her Vice Presidential runningmate, and second for his role in unsuccessfully challenging House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in her bid for re-election to that post.

Tim Ryan is in an opportune position to move up the political ladder. Donald Trump won the Presidency in part by siphoning off from the Democrats a significant number of blue-collar voters, like the ones in Ohio’s 13th Congressional District, who split their tickets, overwhelmingly re-electing Ryan, while selecting Trump for President.

Voters in Ryan’s northern Ohio Congressional District have come to see the national Democratic Party as a coterie of cosmopolitan sophisticates who ignore voters in the nation’s hinterlands.

In almost every campaign, Republican candidates in Middle America try to tether their Democratic opponent to national Democratic leaders from the coast. Pelosi is a convenient target because she hails from San Francisco. The Republicans often vilify the City-By-The-Bay for its reputation for libertine values.

In 1984, Democrats made the mistake of holding their national convention in San Francisco. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Jeanne Kirkpatrick exploited that fact in her address to the Republican National Convention by calling for Americans to “reject the San Francisco Democrats.”

By mounting a formidable challenge to Pelosi, Ryan has established himself as the counterweight to Pelosi. He is now nationally known as a tribune and representative of blue-collar Democrats from the heartland who tried to oust Pelosi.

After Ryan lost to Pelosi, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Kallyannne Conway, tweeted: “What a relief. I was worried they [Democrats] had learned from the elections & might be competitive and cohesive again.” Ryan could use that statement in his political future to show that Republicans view him as the antithesis of Pelosi.

Ryan could very well use his newly minted national profile in many ways. He could start a PAC with a moniker like “Returning the Democratic Party to the People.” This would allow him to spend the next few years barnstorming the country campaigning for Congressional candidates in areas hostile to the National Democratic Party.

By doing so, Ryan would collect chits, keep his reputation as the dissident Democrat with a blue-color vision, and he would have the opportunity to meet prominent Democratic donors. He could then run for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination. He could run on a similar platform as U.S. Representative Dick Gephardt (D-MO) did in 1988 by focusing on bread and butter economic issues, highlighting economic nationalism, which has been a hallmark of his congressional tenure.

Economic Nationalism had been associated with the Democratic Party, but Trump co-opted it by pledging to renegotiate NAFTA, by opposing the Transpacific Partnership, and by calling for a 25% tariff to be leveled on Chinese goods exported to the U.S.

Ryan recently changed his position on abortion rights, now defining himself as “prochoice.” This was a dexterous political move. The abortion issue is a litmus test for many Democrats and potential benefactors. The fact that he previously defined himself as “prolife” will likely prove inconsequential. The party has nominated Bill Clinton and Al Gore, both had changed their positions on abortion, and Jesse Jackson and Dick Gephardt ran formidable races, having been converts to the cause of abortion rights.

Democrats will be looking for a candidate from the nation’s interior who could convince blue-collar voters in the General Election that the Democratic Party is their natural home. They will also be looking for a young charismatic leader. Ryan is only 43 years old. He also comes from Ohio, and no Republican has ever won the Presidency without carrying the buckeye state.

Ryan could mount a Presidential bid styling himself as the “Rustbelt Renegade” or the “Rustbelt rebel,” arguing that he stood up to an out-of-touch party establishment, which was tone-deaf to Trump’s appeal. Ryan could make the case that he would bring rustbelt voters back into the Democratic fold in the General Election and win the Presidency. He also might garner endorsements from labor organizations in the primary for his fidelity to their agenda.

Ryan could use U.S. Representative Morris “Mo” Udall (D-AZ) as an archetype. Udall ran against the entrenched House Speaker John McCormick (D-MA) in 1969, losing, and against Majority Leader Hale Boggs (D-LA) in 1971.

In 1976, Udall launched a Presidential campaign as the candidate of “courage, candor, and reform” and highlighted his work in the House against “the seniority system.” Udall finished second for the Democratic nomination behind former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter.

It is unlikely that the Democrats will pick up the House in 2018 because partisan gerrymandering has made for very few swing districts. Ryan could challenge Pelosi again, and a disaffected caucus might vote for him on the secret ballot. Ryan could argue that the party needs a transmogrification in House leadership, having controlled the body only twice since 1995. If Pelosi retires, Ryan would likely be challenged by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD.) Ryan could make the same argument about the long-time Whip as he would make about Pelosi.

Another option would be for Ryan to seek the coveted Ohio Governorship in 2018. By challenging Pelosi, Ryan has inoculated himself from the traditional charge that Republicans would make, that Ryan is an elitist who was a foot soldier for Pelosi. Ryan can now respond that not only was he independent from her, but he even challenged her for the House Minority Leadership.

Should Ryan be elected as Governor, he would likely be on the shortlist for the Democratic Vice Presidential nomination in 2020. He could use that position as a springboard to a Presidential bid as well. Ohio is one of the most important showdown states. No Republican has ever been elected to the Presidency without carrying Ohio. The Democrats would be wise to at least consider that state’s Governor, assuming he can maintain a job approval rating of over 50%.

The failed House leadership run by Ryan was a political masterstroke. Last year, Ryan was a backbench Congressman who was unlikely to develop a national following in the party due to his opposition to abortion rights. Now he is a supporter of abortion rights and has become the voice of blue-collar voters, the ones Trump finessed from the Democratic Party to win the Presidency.

Follow Rich Rubino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichRubinoPOL


Donald Trump’s Democratic Allies?

by Rich Rubino on November 23, 2016

Donald Trump won the Presidency not only by appealing to the Republican Party’s core conservative constituencies, but also by winning the support of many blue-collar workers who had marked ballots for Democratic Presidential nominees in the past. Trump did this by running as a populist insurrectionist candidate whose appeal ran beyond traditional Republicans who champion tax relief, increasing defense expenditures, and nominating conservatives to federal judgeships.

Like most Congressional Democrats, Trump calls for renegotiating trade agreements such as NAFTA, increasing the minimum wage, and dramatically increasing infrastructure spending. In addition, Trump favors providing paid maternity leave for new mothers.

While Congressional Democrats will likely fight Trump over federal judgeships, increases in military spending, and tax cuts, the Democratic Party will probably be an ally in getting much of Trump’s agenda through Congress. Trump will assuredly need the support of Democrats, and will likely experience antagonism from Congressional Republicans. Trump might have to build coalitions of almost all Democrats while picking off some moderate Republicans. His chief antagonists could be the leadership of the Republican Party and the conservative intelligencia.

Trump would not be the first President to have to rely on support from the opposing party while fighting his own. Theodore Roosevelt hailed from the progressive bloodline of the Republican Party. When he was President from 1901-1909, both parties harbored liberal and conservative bloodlines. The conservatives in the GOP believed that the Federal Government should be a limited-purpose entity. Their moniker was “standpatter.” U.S. House Speaker Joe Cannon (R-IL) was a firm standpatter and was often at loggerheads with Roosevelt. Roosevelt got support from progressives in both parties over the steadfast objections of Cannon and his conservative Congressional coefficients. Yet Roosevelt forged a bi-partisan coalition to shepherd the Antiquities Act through Congress, which gives the President authority to create national monuments on public lands. Cannon remarked: “not one cent for scenery.” Cannon also opposed Roosevelt’s efforts to reduce tariffs.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, like Trump, was a convert to the Republican Party. Also, like Trump, Eisenhower was to the left of many members of his party’s Congressional caucus.

Eisenhower fought efforts by some in his party to lower the highest tax bracket, which was 91%. Eisenhower ignored their pleas, averring: “We cannot afford to reduce taxes, reduce income, until we have in sight a program of expenditure that shows that the factors of income and outgo will be balanced.” In addition, Eisenhower worked with Congressional Democrats to reallocate funds from military spending to foreign aid over the objections of conservative Republicans.

Like Trump, Eisenhower entered the Presidency with his party in control of both Congressional chambers. Eisenhower developed a largely harmonious relationship with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson (D-TX) and House Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-TX). The trifecta worked in unison to shepherd the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through Congress against a coalition of conservatives in both parties.

Along these same lines, Johnson, as President, launched a legislative assault to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through Congress. He effectuated a coalition of moderate and liberal Democrats and Republicans against unswerving opposition from Southern conservative Democrats and Western conservative Republicans.

Ironically, as Johnson escalated U.S. troop counts in Vietnam, he relied on support from conservatives in both parties to support its continued funding. He did this while members of his own party, including Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT), voiced opposition to the U.S. role in Indochina.

There is a similitude between Trump and Jimmy Carter in that both started their role as outsiders. Carter had served just one term as Governor of Georgia. Carter won plaudits by telling crowds he was “untainted” by Washington. Also, like Trump, Carter was not in lockstep with his party. Carter had won the Democratic Presidential nomination by appealing to the center, while most of his opponents competed for liberal voters.

As President, Carter focused on fiscal austerity, inflaming the Democratic base that wanted more social spending. He proposed scrapping many projects he branded: “pork barrel projects,” inflaming liberal members of his own party. In addition, Carter nominated tight money exponent Paul Volker as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Furthermore, with Republican help, Carter signed legislation deregulating the finance, communications, and airline industries. He also began the post-Vietnam Cold War military buildup that was continued by Ronald Reagan. Defense spending increased from 4.7% of GDP to 5.2% of GDP. Carter also began funding for the MX missile project.

House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-MA), an unreconstructed Democrat, was sometimes at odds with Carter. In 1980, O’Neill became indignant when Carter conceded the Presidential election earlier than any major party Presidential nominee since Democrat Alton B. Parker in 1980. This depressed turnout on the West Coast, and likely resulted in Democratic voters staying home, culminating in the loss of Congressional seats. O’Neill mocked Carter’s image as an outsider, lashing out at a Carter staffer: “You guys came in like a bunch of jerks, and I see you are going out the same way.”

Bill Clinton worked with a Republican Congressional leadership to pass NAFTA, Welfare Reform and the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The Democratic Leader in the House, Richard Gephardt (D-MO), opposed all these initiatives. Contrariwise, this legislation mustered the support of the GOP Congressional Leadership.

Like Carter, Trump won the nomination and the Presidency not by embracing his party’s establishment, but by running against it. He did not immediately endorse U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan in his bid for re-nomination in his Wisconsin Congressional District. Trump declared: “I’m just not there yet” before eventually endorsing Ryan over his long-shot primary challenger Paul Nehlen. Ryan offered only tepid support for Trump, and did not campaign with him, declaring: “We need to support our entire ticket.” Trump tweeted that Paul Ryan was “weak and ineffective.” Many other Republican leaders distanced themselves from Trump after a tape revealed Trump joking about sexually assaulting women by dis-endorsing him.

In politics, there are no permanent allies or permanent alliances. Politicians may work together on one issue, while working against each other on another issue. This is a rule Trump would be wise to follow. He can work with Democrats on passing much of his domestic agenda, while working against them on issues where they disagree.

Trump did not get elected as part of the Republican establishment, and few Republicans were elected on his coattails. In fact, many Republicans refused to endorse him and spent much of their campaigns distancing themselves from Trump’s actions and oratory. The majority of the country still views Trump unfavorably. Accordingly, it might be in Congressional Republicans self-interest to show independence from Trump.

For Democrats to take control of the Congress in 2018, they need achievements to tout to their constituents. Trump needs achievements to take to these same voters should he run for re-election in 2020. He also needs to deliver for the disaffected voters who supported him. Trump and Congressional Democrats share a mutual interest to work together where they agree to rack up bipartisan achievements on the political scoreboard.

Follow Rich Rubino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichRubinoPOL


Slim Victories and Narrow Defeats: Razor-close Elections In American Politics

November 4, 2016

In politics, most candidates would probably rather lose in an electoral avalanche than lose by a razor-thin margin. A candidate will always have second thoughts regarding what he/she could have done to win the election. A mishap or day off the campaign trail can haunt candidates for the rest of their lives. Richard M. Nixon […]

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Like Nixon In 1968, Pence Could Become The Consensus GOP Candidate in 2020

October 18, 2016

Before Donald Trump selected Mike Pence to be his Vice Presidential Runningmate, Pence was locked in a tight race to retain his job as Indiana Governor, sporting job approval ratings of under 50 percent. If Pence had run for re-election and lost, his expiration date as a viable Presidential candidate would likely have passed. On […]

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Hillary Plays Into Hands Of Trump With ‘Basket Of Deplorables’ Remark

September 28, 2016

Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton recently stated at a New York fundraiser: “You can put half of Donald Trump’s supporters into what I call a basket of deplorables.” While she was referring to the most extreme Trump supporters, her characterization is an exhibition of why Democrats are losing white blue-collar voters, some of whom share […]

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Bernie Sanders Could be a Thorn in the Side of President Hillary Clinton

September 14, 2016

After a divisive primary challenge, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has taken to the campaign hustings urging voters to mark their election ballot for his former foe, Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Sanders tells voters Clinton is “the superior candidate” and that her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, is a “Pathological liar.” Sanders is following the […]

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The Re-Emergence Of Paleoconservatism And Progressive Liberalism

September 2, 2016

The 2016 Presidential election is a watershed for two movements long marginalized by both major political parties. For the Republicans, the nomination of Donald Trump symbolized the re-emergence of “paleoconservatives.” On the Democratic side, the Bernie Sanders movement represents the return of the progressive left as a formidable force in the Democratic Party. Donald Trump […]

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If Trump Should Lose The Election In A Landslide, The GOP Will Likely Survive 08/05/2016 12:27 pm ET | Updated 3 days ago

August 9, 2016

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is becoming an albatross around the necks of members of his party. Down-ballot GOP candidates are put in the awkward position of constantly distancing themselves from the “most” recent linguistic pyrotechnics touched off by Trump. The Real Estate mogul has suggested that Gonzalo Curiel, the Latino judge presiding over a […]

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Ted Cruz Goes Rogue

July 26, 2016

Modern national political conventions are usually public relations promotions where a cavalcade of politicians sing the praises of the party’s nominee. Losing candidates thank their supporters and tell them to fight for the nominee just as hard as they fought for them. The July 20 address given by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who unsuccessfully […]

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Bill Clinton’s Message Resonated in 1992. Hillary’s Message Is Not.

July 15, 2016

For a Presidential candidate to be successful, the candidate must have a message which fits the times, and must have developed an ideological direction that is both palatable to the base and not hostile to the General Election constituency. This year, presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had a tougher than expected primary challenge because […]

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