It’s time to turn attention back to Congress

The presidential bid being carried out by Trumbull County’s own Tim Ryan for the last few months has generated quite a buzz locally.

Since traveling to New York City to announce his bid in April on national television, the longtime congressman now has appeared on stage in two national Presidential Democratic primary debates staged in Miami and Detroit. He has campaigned in states as far away as New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa — not to mention his home state of Ohio.

The significance of a Howland man seeking the presidency was not lost on us and, of course, we supported his candidacy.

Perhaps Ryan’s best effort in the national spotlight came during Tuesday’s debate when he went to bat against fellow candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont over Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan that Ryan argued would send a message to all union members who sacrificed wages in exchange for good health care that they couldn’t keep it.

During the debate, Ryan also took a stance against what he called “incentivizing” undocumented immigrants to come into the U.S. illegally with free health care. Ryan pointed out many Americans pay for their health care coverage, and undocumented immigrants should, too.

Ryan said he would support policies aimed at working-class issues. Indeed, many of those issues are the ones to which Mahoning Valley residents can relate.

It’s unfortunate that his logical stance on some of the issues discussed at Tuesday’s debate became overshadowed on social media and national television by Ryan’s failure to put his hand on his heart — as all the other candidates did — during the national anthem prior to the start of the televised event. Ryan’s campaign later issued a statement saying the incident should not be interpreted as a form of protest or statement. Rather, the campaign said it came in “a moment of absent-mindedness while on a debate stage that won’t happen again.”

The fact is, however, Ryan’s good efforts seem to be coming too late.

It now appears very likely that Tuesday’s debate was Ryan’s last — in this presidential race, at least. The Democratic National Committee is tightening its qualifications for candidates to participate in the third and fourth debates coming in September and October.

Candidates hoping to make the stage for those debates must meet higher thresholds for polling and donations, rather than just one of the criteria. It’s being upped from 1 percent to 2 percent in qualifying polls and to 130,000 unique donors from 65,000. By comparison, Ryan reported earlier this month his campaign had 13,000 individual donors.

Even local political expert William Binning, former chairman of the political science department at Youngstown State University, on Wednesday described Ryan as a “marginal candidate.”

We credit Ryan for his tenacity and drive and for making a valiant effort, but we suggest it now is time for him to step away from the presidential bid and return to the important tasks that need his full attention in the U.S. Congress.