Tim Ryan Tones Down Anti-china Rhetoric in New Ad Following Backlash

Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan dialed back his calls to “take on China” in a new campaign ad Friday following criticism over an “inflammatory” TV spot he aired weeks earlier. 

In Friday’s ad, Ryan, who is running to replace Ohio Republican Rob Portman in the Senate, calls on Democrats and Republicans to come together to fix the economy and reduce U.S. dependence on China.

“We’ve got to get serious about lowering costs and actually helping people, and that means both parties need to stop wasting time on stupid fights,” he says in the 30-second video. “We’ve got to take on China, fix our supply chains by making things in America, and we’ve got to pass a real tax cut for workers to put more money in your pockets.” 

The ad plays on the same economic themes as an advertisement he released in late March but takes a far less combative stance toward “Communist China.” The March TV spot, part of a $3.3 million ad campaign running across Ohio, attracted criticism from within his own party for its “incendiary” tone. 

“It is us vs. China, and instead of taking them on, Washington’s wasting our time on stupid fights. China is out-manufacturing us left and right — left and right,” he says in the clip, a supercut of speeches he’s given on the campaign trail. “It is time for us to fight back. We need to fight back. It’s time to fight back.” 

New York Democratic Rep. Grace Meng, a vice chairwoman for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, called on Ryan to take down the ad, and the AAPI Victory Fund, a super PAC that supports Asian American candidates, condemned him for stirring up a “racist pedagogy vis-a-vis China.” 

“To be an inclusive party, Democrats must not incite hate or fear just to whip up their base. That’s what the Trump Republicans do and why we fight them everywhere,” Shekar Narasimhan, the political action committee’s chairman, said in a statement at the time. 

Ryan refused to apologize for the ad. “Ohio workers are the best in the world, and I will never apologize for doing everything in my power to take on China and fight for all Ohioans,” he said. Yet Friday’s advertisement only mentions China once. 

Republicans attacked Ryan as a “phony career politician” in response to the ad Friday, saying his votes in Congress created the very economic problems he’s now campaigning against, including inflation and the supply chain delays facing companies. 

“Here he goes again — saying one thing and doing the other,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow said in a statement. “Tim Ryan says we now need to fix all of these problems he helped create, but why did he vote to create them in the first place?” 

Though Ryan is considered a clear front-runner in the Democratic primary, leading his nearest contender by more than 20 points in a Hill poll conducted in late February, he’ll face an uphill battle against Republicans should he win the Democratic nomination; the Cook Political Report rates the race as “lean Republican.” 

Campaigning in a state that former President Donald Trump won by 8 points, Ryan has made China and rebuilding U.S. manufacturing a centerpiece of his campaign. In Friday’s ad, he even reprised Trump’s campaign slogan, calling for politicians to come together and “be Americans first.” 

Ryan will face off against Democratic rivals Morgan Harper, Traci Johnson, and LaShondra Tinsley in the May 3 primary.

Reporting by The Washington Examiner.