Rep. Tim Ryan outlines vision: 'What's America 2.0 look like?'

Rep. Tim Ryan: We need 'Democratic Party 2.0'
Rep. Tim Ryan: We need 'Democratic Party 2.0'

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Rep. Tim Ryan: We need 'Democratic Party 2.0' 01:24

Story highlights

  • Tim Ryan is weighing a challenge to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
  • Ryan says Democrats need new messaging to win over working-class voters

(CNN)Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan -- whose name has been floated as a potential opponent to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's re-election bid -- said Wednesday that he hasn't decided yet whether to mount a Democratic leadership challenge but that he believes Democrats need a shake-up.

"Look, the Obamas are gone. The Clintons are gone. The Bidens are gone. Harry Reid is gone. There's no one at the (Democratic National Committee) now. We've got to -- we've got to say, what's America 2.0 look like?" Ryan said in an interview on CNN's "New Day."
    "We've got to re-evaluate what we're doing as Democrats, especially in the congressional campaign," the Ohio Democrat said.
    Asked by CNN's Poppy Harlow whether he was planning on challenging Pelosi when Democrats hold their leadership elections after the Thanksgiving break, Ryan was coy.
    "That's the conversation we're having right now. My main goal was to get the election delayed. We were supposed to have it tomorrow, and now it's delayed for a couple weeks so we can actually have that conversation," Ryan said.
    Pelosi formally announced Wednesday in a letter to supporters that she was seeking re-election.
    "It is with both humility and confidence that I write to request your support for House Democratic Leader," Pelosi said. "As of this writing, I am pleased to report the support of more than two-thirds of the Caucus."
    Ryan was careful to also express his admiration for Pelosi and said he didn't blame her for Democrats' stinging losses in 2016.
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    "Let me just say, I love Nancy Pelosi. She's an amazing woman. She's got more energy than probably half of our Democratic caucus and is a terrific fundraiser, and I don't blame her for the past election. It wasn't her fault. We did get caught up in a national wave."
    And Ryan said he hadn't yet decided whom to support in the race for chair of the DNC, adding, "I've got a lot of respect for all" the candidates and that "I don't have a horse in that race yet."
    Ryan also discussed President-elect Donald Trump's appointment of Stephen Bannon as a senior adviser, a move assailed by critics who have accused Bannon of catering to white supremacists and nationalists in his former role as chief of Breitbart News.
    "I think it's going to be very, very hard to work with," Ryan said. "I can see a scenario where there's going to be a lot of Democrats who aren't going to want to be in meetings or want to work with Trump if that guy is in the room."
    He continued, "First and foremost, it would be very helpful if he didn't appoint somebody or give someone a very high position that was very sympathetic to white supremacist groups."
    Ryan said that "there are things we would work with him on," such as reforming campaign finance and passing an infrastructure spending bill. But he added, "If he pushed this right-wing agenda, we're going to fight him every step of the way."
    The Democrat also sketched out his vision for the kind of messaging he believes Democrats should adopt, stressing the importance of speaking to the kinds of working-class voters who carried Trump to the White House.
    "People don't want to hear about job retraining. People don't want to hear about running a computer. They want to -- they want you to talk to them about how they can run machinery, or run a back hoe or sling concrete block. That's what they want to do. So we need an agenda for Democrats that speaks to those workers," Ryan said.
    He pointed to the renewable energy industry as an example of an issue Democrats could seize on to recapture those voters.
    "I don't think we talked about it enough. There are 8,000 component parts to a windmill. There's gear shifts, hydraulics. These things need to be manufactured. And if the United States of America says we're going in on a clean-energy economy, and we are going to manufacture those products -- in coal country, in Youngstown, Ohio, in the industrial Midwest, in the Great Lakes region -- I mean, that is what we do in that region. We make those. So we need national policies that are going to allow us to get there."