Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) said Tuesday following his party’s fourth special election defeat in just three months that Democrats are “toxic” in large areas of the country and that their brand is “worse than Trump,” The New York Times reported.
Ryan made the comment after Democrat Jon Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel in Georgia’s hotly contested 6th Congressional District race. The special election was held to replace Tom Price, who is now heading up the Department of Health and Human Services for President Donald Trump.
Price previously won the Republican-leaning district by 20 points. Trump won the north Atlanta suburban district by just one percentage point. And moderate Republicans’ frustrations with Trump just five months into his presidency were enough to give Democrats an edge — or so they thought.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poured nearly $5 million into trying to get Ossoff elected. Planned Parenthood’s political arm spent more than $700,000 on the race. Other Democratic and liberal super PACs spent a combined $758,794 in what became the most expensive U.S. House race in American history.
— Billy Valentine (@valentinebilly) June 21, 2017
Republican and conservative Super PACs from around the country backed Handel with tens of millions of dollars in advertising, NBC News reported. Handel and the GOP painted Ossoff as a California liberal, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while Ossoff tried to run as more of a moderate Democrat.
Ryan attempted to unseat Pelosi as House Minority Leader earlier this year. The Ohio Democrat said it was time for newer and younger leadership in the Democratic Party, because the message Pelosi and others were pushing just didn’t resonate with voters in middle and rural America.
“Our brand is worse than Trump,” Ryan said, according to the New York Times. “We can’t just run against Trump.”
Jim Dean, chairman of the liberal advocacy group Democracy for America, criticized Ossoff for “lighting millions of dollars on fire.”
“The same, tired centrist Democratic playbook that has come up short cycle after cycle will not suffice,” Dean told the Times.
The party has not fared well in recent months. In April, Democrats lost a special election in Kansas to replace Mike Pompeo, who is now Trump’s CIA director. A month later, in May, Democrats lost again to Republicans in Montana, even after the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, body slammed a reporter.
Democrats faced two more defeats Tuesday in South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District and Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.
Despite the disappointing losses for Democrats, however, liberal pundits and politicians claimed “moral victories.”
South Carolina Democratic strategist Lachlan McIntosh said Democrats need to make major changes within their ranks if they want to take back control of the U.S. House in 2018. Democrats would need to pick up at least 24 seats to do that.
McIntosh specifically echoed previous calls from Ryan and called for the current Democratic leadership in Congress to change.
“The problem will persist for Democrats next year. They can’t ignore how very unpopular their leadership is with many voters. It’s not fair or justified, but it’s real,” McIntosh said, the Times reported.
Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, defended his boss against calls for new Democratic leadership by pointing out how much money Republicans spent “to keep a ruby red seat” like the one in Georgia. Hammill further criticized Republicans for “demonizing” Pelosi, who he said is the party’s “strongest fundraiser and consensus builder.”
“They don’t have Clinton or Obama, so this is what they do,” Hammill said.