Hiding From Biden: Ohio Dem Won't Attend President's Cleveland Speech

Senate candidate Tim Ryan doesn't want to attend event with historically unpopular Joe Biden

U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) / Getty Images
July 5, 2022

President Joe Biden will tout his economic record during a Wednesday speech in Ohio, but one of the most prominent Democrats in the state says he has better things to do than attend.

Rep. Tim Ryan, Ohio's Democratic Senate nominee, won't attend Biden's scheduled speech in Cleveland, his campaign told the Washington Free Beacon. Biden plans to use the speech to go on the offensive and deliver remarks on his "economic agenda" and plans for "building an economy from the bottom up and the middle out," according to the White House. It's Biden's second visit to the city this year, as he tries to win back support from Rust Belt voters.

Ryan's campaign said he will instead be campaigning in the southeast part of the state. Ryan is running against Republican J.D. Vance for the open seat held by the retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R.).

Democrats around the country who face tough elections in November are trying to distance themselves from the president. Ryan is attempting to portray himself as a moderate in a state that former Republican president Donald Trump won in 2020 by more than 8 points. The move is a bold one considering Ryan's record of voting 100 percent of the time with Biden's position.

The strategy is already facing headwinds. As Biden finds himself with the worst presidential poll numbers in nearly 100 years, he is desperate to convince voters who are paying all-time-high gas and grocery prices that the economy is stable.

When Biden travels the country and gives speeches in swing states such as Ohio, his fellow Democrats view him more as an albatross than an asset. Already, Democrats have spent as much time attacking their own party as attacking their Republican opponents. From Mandela Barnes (D., Wis.) calling the Senate an "out-of-touch millionaire's club" to Catherine Cortez Masto (D., Nev.) saying she's running against "dysfunction in Washington," Democrats want voters to forget who has controlled Congress for the last two years.

Ryan is no exception. In ad buys throughout the state, Ryan does not mention his votes on such controversial bills as the $2 trillion American Rescue Plan, which many economists blame for contributing to skyrocketing inflation. In a new ad called "Neighborhood," Ryan calls for tax cuts and does not use the word "Democrat" a single time.

"I don't answer to any political party," he says. "I answer to the folks I grew up with and the families like yours all across Ohio."

Biden this year has made several trips to the Buckeye State, and Ryan each time has made alternative plans. When Biden visited Cincinnati in May, for example, the White House said the two were "in close touch" even though Ryan decided not to show.

Republicans, however, will not make it easy for Democrats to shake their connection to Biden.

"Ryan talks tough when he visits Ohio. He tries to sound like some renegade, and some populist who advocates for working people," Vance wrote in an op-ed published last month. "His radical record reveals the truth of a corporatist lackey who dutifully gets behind Biden in every single vote."

So far, there is little evidence Ryan's strategy is working for him. Although polling in the state is sparse, a USA Today-Suffolk University survey released shortly after the May primary found Vance leading Ryan by 2 points.