Dem Rep. Tim Ryan, weighing 2020 run, warns party perceived as 'hostile to business'

CONCORD, N.H. – Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who is considering a 2020 presidential run, said Wednesday that his party has to be “very careful” not to appear too anti-business as it tries to win back the White House.

“I think we’ve got to be very careful. We come off sometimes as hostile to business,” the Ohio congressman lamented as he spoke with Fox News and two New Hampshire news organizations on Wednesday.

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The comments come a day after Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has played an influential role pulling presidential candidates to the left on several issues, entered the White House race. Ryan, who raised his national profile with an unsuccessful leadership challenge against Nancy Pelosi in 2016, said Wednesday he’s “getting close” to making his own decision on whether to run for president.

Ryan argued that to get things accomplished, “we’ve got to come together. And that includes being engaged with the business community. You can be hostile to greed, you can be hostile to income inequality, you can be for raising raises … but you can’t be hostile to businesses because 98 percent of businesses are small business people.”

“We can’t green the economy without the power of the free-market system,” he added.

Ryan spoke during a three-day swing through the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire. The trip is full of private meetings with leading Democratic state and local lawmakers, rainmakers and union leaders.

Ryan, who made multiple trips to New Hampshire over the past two years, said: “I think there’s plenty of time to get to know people in Iowa and New Hampshire and the early states and raise the kind of money that you would need. I think you’ve got to make a decision soon, but I’m not feeling like we missed the opportunity.”

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Asked how he could compete for the nomination with candidates with bigger bank accounts and much stronger name ID, Ryan cited one-time longshot candidates Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, who all made it to the White House.

“Nobody thought any of them had a chance to win. So my bet would be conventional wisdom never really works out,” he highlighted.

If he runs, Ryan may very well face competition from within his own state. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is visiting the early voting primary and caucus states as he moves toward a possible presidential run.

“We kind of come from the same kind of place,” Ryan said as he welcomed a Brown campaign for president.

But Ryan admitted that he and Brown could take votes from each other, saying “there probably would be some of that.”

Ryan said he’d stand out in a large field of 2020 Democratic contenders because of his experience living in northeast Ohio, where he’s watched “this economic train wreck happen to my family, my friends, my community ... and in 16 years in Congress, I’ve been working extremely hard to rebuild these communities.”

Ryan, a nine-term congressman who was one of the leaders of the failed intra-party attempt to prevent Pelosi returning to the speakership, also took aim at Republican President Trump.

“I’m very concerned with where the country is right now. I don’t think we have a long-term game plan. We’re divided,” he charged. “The tax cut didn’t work and the volatility and the division is killing us.”

Ahead of his trip, the Republican National Committee targeted the congressman for his “embrace of government-run healthcare and sky high taxes.”

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“Tim Ryan is just another out-of-touch 2020 wannabe that will ultimately fail when stacked up against President Trump's record of success,” added RNC spokesperson Mandi Merritt.