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Rep. Tim Ryan Says Democrats Need To Start Winning Special Elections

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This week seems to encapsulate many of the problems Democrats are facing. The Senate worked on this health care bill in secret. Republicans did at least. There was little Democrats could do about it because they're not in power. And the party's loss in a House race in Georgia has some wondering when the party might return to power. Some prominent Democrats are openly questioning their party's direction, including Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, who was quoted as saying, "our brand is worse than Trump." Tim Ryan is on the line, and Congressman, what did you mean by that?

TIM RYAN: Well, we're losing. It's Trump, four; us, zero, you know, in the special elections. And that's a real problem. And we keep losing these races. And, you know, at some point, you got to start winning. And we're not winning. We haven't figured out how to win. I'm not happy with moral victories. I'm not happy with, you know, a second place trophy. We've got to get our act together. There's a lot at stake here.

GREENE: So what's the solution?

RYAN: Well, I think having an economic message - I think it's figuring out how to rebrand ourselves at the national level. No one's connecting with our party right now. And I think inside the Beltway - you know, a lot of times we're screaming about Russia and Trump all the time. But at the end of the day, that's not enough to get us home, being an anti-Trump party, because most people in these congressional districts are really thinking about what's - you know, what they're dealing with in their own household, which means their bills, their mortgage, their pensions and, you know, how much they're spending out of pocket every month on health care.

GREENE: You know, I've been told that Republicans will go into an area, like a district, and listen and figure out what real concrete issues matter a lot to voters. And then they'll, you know, come up with a message for districts like that. Do Democrats do that, or do they handle things differently?

RYAN: Well, sometimes we do push a national agenda that doesn't necessarily reflect the interests of the local community and the local congressional district. So it needs to be an organic message that comes from the ground up. I saw that in South Carolina when I was there this weekend. Archie Parnell was a tax expert. He was talking about simplifying the tax code. So you know, I got to - I think I got to wrap it up here. But I just want to say that, you know, we have an opportunity to turn this around. We've got a lot of energy on the ground, and we're excited about where we can go. But we've got to take a good, hard look in the mirror as Democrats and figure out, you know, exactly what we need to do to get there.

GREENE: Just in 15, 20 seconds - is your criticism, in some ways, about challenging House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who you challenged for a job last time?

RYAN: Well, at some extent, everybody's got to take responsibility for her. And that includes all of our leaders. And we've got to get ready to maybe make some changes if we need to.

GREENE: Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio - thank you so much, sir.

RYAN: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.