Ryan for president: The ‘Uncandidate’


Remember the old ads for 7 Up, the “uncola”? The catchy slogan played up how the soft drink was different from Coke.

If I were labeling Democratic Party presidential contenders, I would call U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-13, Ohio) the “uncandidate.” He is not like the others, and boy, is that refreshing.

The Youngstown congressman does not have the “buzz” of the front-runners.

But he appears to have way more in common with regular people than the others. Call him the “unelite.”

First, he is a native Ohioan who lives in Howland, a suburb of Youngstown.

Second, he did not attend the exclusive universities that most of his competitors did. He went to “state schools.” Ryan started at Youngstown State University, where injuries ended his football career, and finished at Bowling Green State University (my alma mater) with a degree in political science. He got his law degree from the University of New Hampshire, a public school not to be confused with Yale or Harvard.

Third, he is married to Andrea Zetts, a first-grade teacher. Like so many couples, they both work full-time outside the home and are raising three children. Ryan, of Irish and Italian descent, saw his parents split at a young age and was raised by his mother, giving him commonality with others raised by single parents.

Fourth, Ryan had the backbone to stand up to then House Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi and demand that she step aside for the betterment of the party. But he and other rebels made peace with Pelosi and supported her for House Speaker in return for significant reforms.

Fifth, like most of us, Ryan has trouble making up his mind. He has flirted with running for Ohio governor and U.S. senator on more than one occasion before opting out. Most observers thought his talk of running for president was just that. However, Ryan crossed up his critics by putting his hat in the ring and heading for Iowa, where he probably is right now.

Sixth, he struggled with how to approach his life until he took up mindfulness. He wrote a book on the topic and has become an advocate of the approach that purports to increase performance and reduce stress. Imagine having a president who is mindful. It boggles my mind full!

Seventh, the 13th District, that he represents, stretches from Youngstown to Akron and is a rich mixture of urban, suburban, small town and rural Ohioans. I would suggest that the territory Ryan represents is more of a microcosm of the United States than any other candidate’s territory.

Eighth, Ryan’s politics are more moderate than liberal. That makes him more appealing to the center of the body politic, where the 10 percent of swing voters who decide most presidential elections reside.

Ninth, Ryan is a middle-age man living in the middle of the country at a time when some leading Democrats are too left-wing or have too much baggage to appeal to the political center.

Tenth, the first two pivotal states for Democratic aspirants are Iowa and New Hampshire. Ryan has an “in” with both. Iowa is a purple Midwest state with similar demographics to guess where? Ohio. Ryan got his law degree at a public university in guess where? New Hampshire.

Finally, Ryan has stated that qualifying for the first round of debates, June 26-27 in Miami, is crucial to his chances by letting him show his stuff to a national television audience. At this writing, Ryan is one of 16 Democrats to make the cut. He will get his turn in the spotlight.

Ryan is clearly electable if he gets the nomination. He has the profile of somebody who could bring the country together and heal some of the awful divisions between rival factions.

In other words, the “uncandidate,” “unelite” Tim Ryan, might be the one candidate who could unite these states.


By John K. Hartman

Guest columnist

A resident of Liberty Township since 2008, John Hartman is an emeritus professor of journalism at Central Michigan University and a member of the CMU Journalism Hall of Fame. He formerly served on the township board of zoning appeals and as an alternate on the township zoning board. He was a member of the Bowling Green Board of Education from 1978-1997. He is a Democratic Party precinct committeeman, and he writes a monthly column for the Columbus Free Press

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