Well, this is awkward.
Ohio Democratic Senate candidate Tim Ryan attended President Biden’s Friday speech touting the construction of a new computer-chip factory in the Buckeye State — but only after again discouraging the commander-in-chief from seeking a second term.
Ryan told reporters Friday that he stood by his remarks earlier this week that the 79-year-old president should consider retirement.
“The president said from the very beginning he was going to be a bridge to the next generation, which is basically what I was saying,” said Ryan, a congressman who represents a district in northeastern Ohio south of Cleveland.
Asked by reporters if Biden should run again, Ryan said, “That’s up to him.”
On Thursday, Ryan told Youngstown’s WFMJ-TV that he was not in favor of Biden, who turns 80 in November, running again for president in 2024.
“My hunch is that we need new leadership across the board, Democrats, Republicans. I think it’s time for, like, a generational move for new leaders on both sides,” Ryan said.
“People, I think want some change,” he added. “And, you know, it’s important for us to, I think on both parties — like these leaders who have been around for a while — I think it’s time for some generational change, which of course I’ve been trying to do for a while now.”
The president didn’t mention Ryan’s Senate bid while speaking at the site of Intel’s future semiconductor plant in New Albany, 15 miles northeast of Columbus — a notable contrast from the president’s Monday visit to Pennsylvania, where he shared a stage with another Democratic Senate candidate, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
Biden lavished praise on retiring Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty but gave short shrift to Ryan.
“I want to thank Rob Portman for being the gentleman and decent man that he is and for showing that Democrats and Republicans can work together to get big things done for our country … You’re leaving a hell of a legacy,” Biden said.
“Thanks to the bipartisan group of the Ohio congressional delegation here today,” the president continued.
“Tim Ryan, thank you for your leadership, always representing the interests of working people. Thank you, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty. And, you know, I don’t think we could have gotten the infrastructure bill done without Joyce. She was the final capstone.”
Recent polls show Ryan narrowly trailing Republican JD Vance in the longtime swing state — and the Democratic candidate admitted to CNN last week that he’s making a point of presenting himself to voters as a political independent rather than a Democrat, despite voting with Biden’s position 100% of the time in the House.
“The Democratic brand, as we know, and you and I have talked about this for a long time, is not good in a lot of these places,” Ryan said at the time.
Ryan isn’t the only Ohio Democrat keeping Biden at arm’s length ahead of the midterm elections.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, another northern Ohio Democrat, attacked Biden in a recent campaign ad for “letting Ohio solar manufacturers be undercut by China” — saying she’s been “fighting back” against Biden and “working with Republican Rob Portman.”
“She doesn’t work for Joe Biden. She works for you,” the Kaptur campaign ad says. The longtime lawmaker did not attend the president’s Friday event.
Biden has repeatedly insisted that he plans to seek a second term, despite the fact that he would be 86 years old upon leaving office.
In an effort to beat back speculation that he will retire, Biden reportedly told former President Barack Obama earlier this year that he sincerely plans to run again.
Biden in March said that he would be “very fortunate” to face former President Donald Trump in 2024 — as Trump readies his own comeback bid after narrow losses to Biden in swing states in 2020.
At a White House press conference in January, Biden said he intends to keep Vice President Kamala Harris as his running mate in 2024.
And in December, Biden said in an interview with ABC News anchor David Muir that he’d run again if he’s in “good health.”
“If I’m in the health I’m in now — I’m in good health — then, in fact, I would run again,” Biden said. “I’m a great respecter of fate. Fate has intervened in my life many, many times.”
But there also have been moments of uncertainty — as some commentators note that Biden cannot say he’s retiring, even if that’s possible, because saying so would instantly make him a less-influential “lame duck” and shift focus onto candidates to replace him.
In December, Harris told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that she and Biden had not discussed whether they are running together for re-election and that she was unaware of whether Biden is running for a second term — sparking speculation Biden may step down.
Biden received the most votes of any candidate in US history in 2020 amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic, but his approval rating plunged following the chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 and has hovered near 40% this year.
Although Biden has sought to reframe the midterm elections as a referendum on Trump, Democrats face political trouble due to the worst inflation since the early 1980s, rising violent crime, record illegal immigration, and a COVID-19 death count more than double what it was when the president took office.