Can Democrats Regain the Rust Belt?

The Rust Belt is a region stretching from Utica, New York through part of Pennsylvania, all of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and areas of Illinois. It used to be America’s industrial heartland, which is where it got its nickname.

The region was long a stronghold of the Democrat Party, run by unions and the labor vote. Whereas in 2016, the “Blue Wall” crumbled and collapsed with the surprise victory of Donald Trump in the presidential election.

Now, with the midterms only a month away, the Democrats are looking to regain power in the Rust Belt. Can they do it?

Let’s Take a Look at Ohio

Ohio is a perfect example of the Democrats’ current strategy to win back working-class votes. In the Buckeye State, you have Republican JD Vance facing off against Democratic candidate Tim Ryan.

Ryan served in the US House of Representatives since 2003, but has been massively outspent by Vance, who is backed by Trump and the America First movement.

Ryan is trying to chart a path forward that taps into patriotic feelings, while also avoiding identifying overly much with the Democrat Party. He’s even mentioned working with Trump on several issues and has come out against Biden on various issues.

Ryan made it clear he’s not fully in line with either party and he actually agrees strongly with Trump’s stand against China on trade and protecting American industry with tariffs.

These were the right move, Ryan argues, as opposed to most of his Democrat colleagues.

Basically, by being a Democrat who thinks his own party is partly full of crap, Ryan has managed to surge ahead. He is now tied or very close to Vance in many polls.

This has some speculating that he may well win the state and become the next senator for Ohio. How exactly is this happening and is there more to it?

Taking a Deeper Look

The truth is many who voted for Trump also came from a background of Democrats and the populist movement is not as simple as purely left-right.

Ryan himself comes from a small town built on the steel industry; he’s voted his conscience in many cases, deviating from the Democrat Party’s line.

He said he has no “time” to defend the record of his party which he agrees has many problems, including on securing the border, which Ryan supports.

Instead, Ryan agreed he’s sick of the Democrats siding with controversial cultural issues; he especially dislikes how the student loan forgiveness plan is irresponsible and makes those who don’t attend college feel like failures.

Ryan ramped up spending and managed to raise quite a bit of money, but this race could still definitely go to Vance, who is a highly popular and capable candidate.

The issue for the GOP is partly that Vance is eating up money that they’d prefer to spend in other races such as Nevada, Wisconsin, and Georgia.

The Bottom Line

By focusing on his own maverick brand and siding with the right on various issues, Ryan is gaining a lot of ground in Ohio. If anything, he proves conservative policies are popular, regardless of who pitches them.

This article appeared in StatesmanPost and has been published here with permission.