Swing-state Democrats keep their distance from President Biden


(NEW ALBANY, Ohio) — After voting for the bipartisan computer chip manufacturing bill earlier this year, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, was one of several lawmakers with President Joe Biden on Friday in Licking County, to mark the groundbreaking of Intel’s new semiconductor chip factory.

But as a Democratic candidate in a competitive Senate race, Ryan has kept his distance from Biden — who lost Ohio to former President Donald Trump by eight points in 2020.

The Ryan campaign has not asked Biden or anyone from the White House to campaign with the Senate hopeful, with “no plans to do so,” spokesperson Izzi Levy told ABC News.

Ryan is not alone: In many key states with crucial Senate, House and gubernatorial races, Democrats are carefully managing their association with the president, toeing the line between appearing too friendly with the White House, and breaking with him and a party who have consistently received low marks from voters on their handling of inflation and the economy.

Ryan went as far as to categorize himself as an “independent” during an interview with Youngstown’s WFMJ-TV on Thursday, ahead of the president’s arrival.

“Well, not really asking anybody. Like I just I’m not one of those guys like, ‘Oh, I need someone to come in and help me.’ I’ve been I’ve been doing this I know what I’m doing. I know what I believe in. I know where I’m from. I know who I’m fighting for. I don’t need anyone else to like, you know, gum that message up,” he said.

When pressed by ABC News on whether he’s renouncing his ties with the Democratic Party, Ryan backtracked, saying he’s campaigning as an “independent-minded person.”

“I’m running as an independent-minded person who’s taken on President Obama, who’s taken Nancy Pelosi, has taken on Bernie Sanders but also agreed with Trump on trade and China and General Mattis and other things,” Ryan said. “People want an independent-minded person, they don’t want someone who’s just going to pull the lever with their own party, and I will be capable of saying ‘no’ to my own party.”

During Thursday’s WFMJ interview, Ryan notably highlighted the policy platforms he’d agreed with former President Trump on while pointing out the times he’d delineated from Biden, with whom he has voted with 100% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.

“I agree with Biden on CHIPS and infrastructure and some of these things,” Ryan said. “I’ve agreed with, you know, Trump, for example, on China trade. I’ve agreed with Trump on renegotiating NAFTA, strong defense, space force, General Mattis, on those things.”

This isn’t the first time that Ryan has attempted to render a stark divide between himself and the president. When Biden announced his student loan forgiveness plan in August, Congressman Ryan distanced himself from the plan, saying it “sends the wrong message to the millions of Ohioans without a degree working just as hard to make ends meet.”

And when President Biden delivered a prime-time speech last Thursday denouncing “MAGA Republicans” and urging the country to unite against threats to American democracy, none of the Democratic Senate nominees that ABC News initially reached out to for responses reacted to the president’s speech, with Ryan later telling ABC News at an Ohio State University game that “we all have to be extremely vocal about people who stormed the Capitol.”

“I think we absolutely have to be very clear about speaking out about that,” the congressman told ABC News.

Ryan also joins a growing sect of national Democrats who have publicly declared their opposition to something Biden and his administration has confirmed he would do for months — run for a second White House term in 2024. He told WFMJ that “we need new leadership across the board” in response to a question on whether he believes Biden should declare another bid for the slot.

When pressed whether yes or no if he wants to see the president run again in 2024, Ryan told ABC News, “That’s not up to me” and reiterated the need for “generational change.”

“Guys like Mitch McConnell, these people have been there for a very long time,” he added. “As we move out of this age of stupidity that we’ve been in officially long. I think it’s time to hit the reset button and get people that don’t want to focus on us being Americans first.”

In Wisconsin over Labor Day weekend, as President Biden touted the power of union workers at a “Laborfest” in Milwaukee — Democratic Senate nominee and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes was noticeably absent.

At a presser last week in Tempe, Arizona, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly told ABC News that on the issue of whether he wanted the president to come join him in the state before the general election, he said, “We welcome anybody to come out. We’ve got a lot of issues we’re dealing with right now. Water, wildfires, being some of the top of my priority list.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat running for governor, did not join the president at his second Labor Day stop in Pittsburgh, after appearing with Biden at an official White House event in Wilkes-Barre the previous week.

Shapiro did tell CNN in May that he would “welcome” Biden in Pennsylvania to campaign for him, adding that he is “focused on running a race here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, listening to the people of Washington County, not Washington, D.C.”

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat in a competitive reelection race with Republican businessman Tim Michels, and Barnes marched in a “Laborfest” parade before the president’s arrival in the city, with supporters asking for pictures and opportunities to shake hands with Barnes, the candidate several voters told ABC News will be “the next senator of Wisconsin.”

In Georgia’s Senate race, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has also been on record distancing himself from President Biden as he fights for reelection, locked in a tight battle against former football star and GOP nominee Herschel Walker.

When pressed by ABC News at a campaign stop in Union City on Tuesday, Warnock wouldn’t say if he supports Biden coming to Georgia to campaign for him.

“Frankly, I’m not focused on who I’m campaigning with but who I’m campaigning for,” Warnock said. “That’s why I spend time in places like Union City. Before this stop, I was in Newnan — a place that folks don’t expect Democrats to show up — because I’m determined to represent all the people of Georgia.”

That campaign strategy marks a departure from just last year, when Biden campaigned in Georgia for Sens. Warnock and Jon Ossoff during their runoff elections.

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