A senior member of Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D., Ohio) Senate campaign told the Atlantic in May that the candidate only had a chance of winning if President Joe Biden’s approval rating in Ohio was above 42% on Election Day. Since this article was published, not a single poll has had Biden’s approval above 41%.
But that hasn’t stopped mainstream media reporters from portraying Ryan as the kind of culturally conservative Democrat who could come as a surprise in November. Without presenting evidence that he had broad appeal in his home state of Ohio, article after article characterized him as the type of Democrat who had a playbook for succeeding in a red state.
Politics declared Ryan the Democrats’ “best messenger on the economy” and Time the magazine praised his ability to channel both Bobby Kennedy and Ronald Reagan on the runway. Ryan had “blue-collar credibility,” in the words of the New York Times, and won over voters with a “call for unity in these fractured times”. Ryan was “the perfect test of whether anyone can bridge the gap between the moderate and progressive wings of Democrats,” according to the the wall street journal.
This kind of treatment likely led the country’s small Democratic donors to believe that Ryan had the secret formula for causing an upset. Ryan successfully led his army of small donors to a 400% cash advantage over his Republican challenger JD Vance. Ryan managed to raise more money than other Democrats who would end up losing their races by much lower margins, like Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin and Cheri Beasley in North Carolina. Ryan has even raised more than the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee.
Kyle Kondik, editor of Crystal Ball of the University of Virginia and author of The Bellwethera book about Ohio politics, said mainstream media praise attracts donations from their readers.
“I think Ryan probably got a lot of credit for the quality of the campaign he ran before the results were actually in,” Kondik said. “If you look at who reads these kinds of publications, they tend to be wealthy and highly educated and willing to donate money.”
Over time, Ryan was absorbing Democratic donations. During the first half of October, Ryan received $8 million in contributions through ActBlue, the Democratic Party’s leading fundraising platform. Ryan was the third biggest beneficiary during this period. Ryan ultimately lost Ohio by about 7 percentage points, a significantly larger margin than Barnes lost in Wisconsin, where the Democrats found themselves just under 1.5 percentage points from a reversal. of incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson. Beasley in North Carolina, a state former President Donald Trump has won twice, lost by 4 points.
It’s impossible to say what either would have done with more money, but in hindsight, strategists say Ryan’s campaign wasn’t the best place for such a large chunk of money. money from Democratic donors.
“I think in any race where a lot of money is raised, and this candidate loses by a margin like Tim Ryan, you can see that costing other candidates in tighter races,” the political strategist said. Ohio Mike Hartley. “Despite what we may think, money is limited in the countryside. There’s not much to do, but liberal donors have earned a reputation for giving with their feelings and ignoring reality.”
A person close to Vance’s campaign said Ryan’s massive online fundraising apparatus amounts to a “personal goal” for Democrats. Ryan’s massive campaign war chest came at the expense of other candidates who had a better chance of winning, the individual said.
“ActBlue is a great moneymaker, but it forces candidates to say unpopular things and it allows liberal media personalities to play gatekeepers to small donors,” said Luke Thompson, who ran a pro-Vance super PAC .
“Democrat donors poured money into a white mediocrity who underperformed like Ryan instead of two black candidates,” Thompson said.
Ryan enjoyed a string of strong polls this summer, tying or sometimes leading Vance, but election predictors have consistently kept the state in the Republican column. The reality the media presented to voters, however, was that the state was pure gambling until Election Day.
Despite the momentum in favor of Vance in October, the media re-engaged in the narrative that Ryan was on the verge of a shock victory. The Time said Ohio was “the most unlikely Senate battleground in the country” and just five days later said “Democrats are predicting upheaval” in the state.
The media played on the race’s competitiveness by highlighting Vance’s fundraising struggles, which were very real. But Vance’s paltry fundraising numbers over the summer — in July his Senate campaign tally was disastrously low, with multiple outlets calling him “broken” — prompted the Senate Leadership Fund of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) in August to pour nearly $30 million into his run. McConnell’s decision drove the media feedback loop that the Ohio Senate race was a draw. As Politics said that month, Ryan “turned his run into a surprise Senate battleground.”
By early September, however, McConnell’s team believed Vance was, as one person familiar with the band’s spending put it, “in good shape.” An internal poll showed the race was probably not competitive at this point. A Republican agent close to the Senate Leadership Fund predicted a victory by at least 7 points, which turned out to be less than half a point from the actual margin.
By late October, Vance was leading in six of eight polls. But on Nov. 3, the same day, a poll found Vance leading by 6 points, Politics said Ryan was running a “surprisingly competitive” campaign.
Ryan’s coverage as the only moderate Democratic nominee was also far from reality. Bloomberg News, in a story that gushed about Ryan’s background as a “high school quarterback” whose “grandfather was a steelworker for 40 years,” said Ryan “often breaks up with Biden.” The story failed to mention that the congressman votes with the president 100% of the time.
As the Free Washington Beacon documented, Ryan’s record was indistinguishable from that of the average leftist Democrat. He supported Medicare for All, a free university, eliminating gas-powered cars and fracking, releasing large numbers of criminals from prison, and cutting the budget for immigration and customs.
Even after his loss, Ryan remains a media darling. The day after his loss, MSNBC reporter Chris Jansing said a “top Democrat” had high hopes for Ryan’s political future: “Watch Tim Ryan in the coming years to run for president .”
Ryan has run for president before, though he didn’t even make it to the Iowa caucuses. Ryan’s spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on Ryan’s future plans.
. How media boosted Tim Ryan hurt other democrats in process