© Greg Nash
A seven-term Ohio Democrat is weighing a challenge to Rep. Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) 13-year run as the party leader.
Rep. Tim Ryan has not decided if he'll launch a bid for a leadership post, his office emphasized Monday. But he's advocating for "big changes" after a disastrous election cycle that put Republicans in charge of the White House and both chambers of Congress starting next year.
And Ryan has been reaching out to Democrats since Tuesday's elections to gauge his colleagues' potential support, according to a lawmaker who received such an inquiry.
"While he has not made any decisions about a leadership run, he strongly believes that the American people are asking for big changes and we need to figure out how best to deliver on their requests," Ryan spokesman Michael Zetts said Monday in an email.
To that end, Ryan sent Pelosi "a personal note" Sunday night, asking that the party's leadership elections, scheduled for Thursday, be delayed to give the Democrats more time to discuss a strategic path back into power.
That request mirrors a separate letter, spearheaded by Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), asking for a similar delay. Roughly 25 Democrats have endorsed the letter, Moulton's office said Monday morning.
Ryan, 43, had initially signed on to the Moulton letter but removed his name amid "rumors" that he's eyeing a leadership bid "in order to keep that issue separate from any specific challenge that may happen," Zetts said.
Ryan "has the highest respect for Leader Pelosi," considering her "a friend and mentor," Zetts said. But he's also concerned that "many traditional Democrats" have left the party and "that if changes aren't made we will be in the political wilderness for many years to come," Zetts said.
"Congressman Ryan is flattered that a growing number of members of the Democratic caucus have called on him to run for leader," Zetts said. "He understands that many members are deeply concerned about the future of the Democratic Party and Caucus."
Still, Ryan is approaching his decision cautiously, maintaining that his goal "at the moment" is simply to push the leadership elections until later in the month "so that we can have the time to address the future of the Democratic Party and Caucus," Zetts said.
Pushing back, a senior Democratic aide expressed doubts that Ryan would launch any kind of leadership run, saying the Ohio lawmaker paid only half of his $200,000 dues to the party, "despite having 500k cash on hand and no race" this cycle.
The aide also said Ryan is eyeing a bid for Ohio's governorship.
"This is a publicity stunt," the aide said.
The potential challenge arrives as the Democrats lick their wounds following last Tuesday's elections. With the provocative Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE atop the Republican ticket, Democrats thought they were poised to win the White House, retake the Senate and make substantial, double-digit gains in the House — none of which happened.
The landslide has sparked a major second-guessing of the Democrats' campaign strategy, and renewed the biennial question of whether the 76-year-old Pelosi and her top lieutenants should remain in power or step aside to allow the ascension of a younger group of Democratic leaders.
Pelosi, for her part, has not said publicly if she's even seeking to keep the top leadership spot. But she's had a firm grip atop the party since 2003, and she issued a statement after the elections indicating a desire to work with President-elect Trump next year, leading to wide expectations that she intends to stay.
— Scott Wong contributed.
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