Ex-Congressman Tim Ryan urges Democrats to stop trying to ‘shut down’ Biden 2024 challenger

Another prominent Democrat is telling Joe Biden and his supporters: listen to the voters.

Former Congressman Tim Ryan, a Democrat who ran for Senate in 2022 against author JD Vance, said on Thursday that his party needs to heed the will of a majority of voters who say they are turned off by the idea of a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024.

Mr Ryan spoke to The Independent on Thursday as he reflected on a victory for the left on the issue of abortion rights in his state last Tuesday, when voters overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment in the state that would enshrine abortion rights into law. His party, he warned, has a “brand” problem in states like Ohio and across the Midwest.

That “brand” issue was being done no favours by Mr Biden, he said, explaining plainly that Mr Biden’s age was typically the top issue that voters cited to him in conversations about whether they’d support his re-election in 2024. The incumbent president is 80 years old, and has been buffeted by such concerns for months.

On that front, Mr Ryan urged his fellow Democrats: stop trying to “shut down” Rep Dean Phillips, a Minnesota congressman who abandoned his House Democratic leadership position to throw his hat in the race and run against the incumbent president in a long-shot bid for the nomination. Mr Phillips has argued that voters are strongly discouraged by the idea of Mr Biden running again, and that the Democrats’ chances of defeating Donald Trump in 2024 are suffering as a result.

“Right now, if this election was held today, President Biden would lose, and it is an existential threat to the future of the United States of America. That will not happen under my watch,” Mr Phillips told NBC’s Meet the Press.

Mr Ryan urged his party to listen to that message, warning that voter enthusiasm would be a casualty of the president running for office again.

“We’re Democrats, the pro-democracy party. We should not be afraid of democracy, and look: the voters are trying to tell us something,” he said. “In all the polling, in all the data, they don’t want a Biden-Trump rematch.”

“I mean, we preach that we’re the pro-democracy party, you know, and then somebody gets in [the race] to have a conversation and gets torched,” he lamented.

As of now, his party has no plans to host debates between Mr Biden and any of his potential challengers for the nomination, including Mr Phillips.

Mr Biden’s chances of re-election faced new questions recently after a New York Times/Siena College poll indicated that he trails former President Donald Trump in key swing states. The Republican ex-president himself is 76, and faces his own calls to step aside from Republicans concerned about his age and the more than 90 felony charges he is currently facing in four separate criminal trials.

Mr Trump has shown no sign of halting his campaign for the presidency, however, and despite not attending any of the three GOP primary debates that have taken place thus far in 2023 remains comfortably in the lead by a massive margin according to all available polling of the Republican field.

The Independent’s full interview with Mr Ryan will be published this weekend.