Ryan, who has praised Pelosi and called her a mentor, said he ran in an attempt to expand what is now the smallest minority since 1929. He argued Democrats must do more to woo the working class white voters who largely abandoned them in favor of President-Elect Donald Trump. In his district, for example, Democrat Hillary Clinton only won Democratic stronghold Mahoning County by three points, while President Barack Obama won it by roughly 25 percent in both 2008 and 2012.
Shortly after the vote was announced, Ryan congratulated Pelosi on her re-election, saying he looks “forward to working with her to promote a progressive agenda for the country.”
“I ran for leader because I believe strongly in the promise of the Democratic Party, but November taught us that changes were necessary,” Ryan said, adding “I am proud that my bid for Democratic Leader pushed our members to have these tough family discussions about our future and how we win back the majority in 2018.”
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., who backed Ryan, said he did so because he believed Ryan would present a “unifying and uplifting message” that would bring back some of the blue-collar workers that went for Trump.
He said the Democratic brand is now “toxic,” in some of the districts that were once Democratic strongholds. “They’ve cleaned our clock in the Midwest,” Lynch said, saying he backed Ryan because he believed “he could help reconnect us with that demographic.”
While Ryan’s fellow Ohioan Marcia Fudge publicly backed Ryan, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township, voted for Pelosi. In a statement, she said Pelosi and Ryan are “strong Democrats, skilled and passionate individuals dedicated to advancing the causes important to all Americans.”
“However, I believe Leader Pelosi is best suited to address the challenges our Caucus and nation will face and ensure that our economy works for everyone,” she said.
Momentum toward Ryan appeared to falter late Tuesday when Pelosi, 76, announced that two-thirds of the caucus had promised to back her.
She dismissed the notion that Ryan could do more to woo white working class voters, telling the Huffington Post last week that Ryan “didn’t even carry his district for Hillary Clinton.”
Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., was among those who backed Pelosi.
“At the end of the day I believe we need stable leadership and with the impending Trump administration Democrats need to be united and we need a true strategist at the helm,” he said, saying Pelosi has “held the Democratic caucus together.”
Connolly said Democrats “need stability and need to regroup.”
“Nancy Pelosi’s one of the smartest politicians I know and I think she will take away from this challenge I think the right lessons,” he said. “We need to open up leadership opportunities to the entire caucus.”