U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who represents Akron and the Youngstown area, is running for president, but to say he’s a dark horse might be an understatement.
This week, the candidates released the latest reports on their campaign’s fundraising efforts. Ryan just launched his campaign April 4, so he doesn’t have to report presidential fundraising until the end of the second quarter. But he raised just $74,000 for his congressional account.
Kyle Kondik, a northeast Ohio native who is the managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball newsletter, says Ryan “has a long way to go on fundraising and just about every other aspect of a campaign."
He notes that, of the current and former members of the House of Representatives who are running, Beto O'Rourke is likely the most prominent. O'Rourke came close to unseating Republican Senator Ted Cruz in Texas last year.
"O'Rourke is a proven fundraiser and already has a national profile," Kondik said.
Kondik said Ryan is not known nationally and has limited name recognition in his home state.
"I wouldn't even say that he's particularly well known in Ohio, given that he only represents a slice of the state from Youngstown to Akron," Kondik said.
With a huge field of candidates, Kondik said he's not ruling out that any one of them could win the nomination.
"I would think even Ryan’s strongest supporters would not list him among the top five likeliest candidates to get the nomination, even in the top 10 at this point,” Kondik.
So why would Ryan jump into this race? Kondik thinks a presidential run might be Ryan's way of increasing his national profile and positioning himself for a future political opportunity—one that may not include his current congressional district.
Eastern Ohio is losing population, and it's likely after the 2020 census, Ohio will lose one of its 16 congressional districts.
“You very well could see the congressional district that gets eliminated being from the eastern part of state,” Kondik says. “Perhaps the district that has been so safe for Tim Ryan for his whole career basically, maybe that district will be redrawn in such a way that he finds it harder to run in the new district."
Running for president could give Ryan the name recognition that would help him in a campaign for a statewide office, or possibly a seat in the U.S. Senate. But Kondik said Ryan's first goal is to make sure he's on stage for the first round of debates among Democratic presidential candidates, which will be held in Miami in late June.
"There are so many candidates, there's going to be two nights of debates," Kondik said. "I would assume as a sitting House member he'd be able to reach the sort of minimum threshold to get into the debates, but who knows?"
To make it into the debates, Ryan must earn at least 1 percent support in three different polls or have received donations from 65,000 unique donors.
Any effort Ryan makes to position himself for a more prominent role among Democrats could be colored by his 2016 attempt to unseat Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, Kondik warns.
"Pelosi has become a much more popular figure now in Democratic circles than she was prior to taking back the speakership," Kondik said. "I don't think Ryan's challenge to Pelosi will play all that well in the party as it stands right now."
But Kondik does note that a major economic loss in his district could provide Ryan an important issue around which to frame his campaign: deindustrialization.
"The closure of that GM plant, that's an issue Ryan could try to own and bring to the table and base his presidential bid around," Kondik said.