Helton: 20 Out of 20: Ryan and Swalwell and Moulton, oh my

Three no-name congressmen are running for president for some reason. Do any of them have a shot at the Oval Office?


Nick Rohlman

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., speaks during a trip to Iowa at the Brick Alley Pub in Marion, Iowa on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2018. Rep. Swalwell is considering a bid for the 2020 Democratic Nomination for President.

Elijah Helton, Opinions Columnist

If you thought Beto O’Rourke is an under-qualified candidate, get a load of these guys.

Yeah, there might be a lot of no-name white dudes running for the Democratic presidential nomination, but that doesn’t mean they should be entirely ignored, at least for right now.

In this edition of 20 Out of 20, we’re looking at three longshot candidates: Reps. Tim Ryan, Eric Swalwell and Seth Moulton of Ohio, California, and Massachusetts, respectively — and their pitches for why they should be their party’s choice to take back the White House from President Trump.

Tim Ryan

Of these three, Ryan probably has the best shot of making some noise. Among political junkies, he has a reputation of being somewhat of a disrupter, albeit not a very successful one. In 2016, he challenged then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for her spot atop the House Democratic leadership, but received less than one-third of the party’s vote.

His challenge to Pelosi seems to be in the same vein as his presidential campaign; the Democrats need to stay in the middle to appeal to purple constituencies similar to his northeastern Ohio district. The nine-term congressman comes in with a long record of moderation on most issues, including abortion and trade.

But if the centrist lane turns out to be the winning one in this nomination race, it isn’t going to be because of primary voters’ sudden infatuation with Ryan (though he gives a fiery anti-Trump speech). Former Vice President Joe Bidenand Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar seem to have much more potential to lead the moderate flank of the party, even if he picks up some percentage points in the polls. It’s hard to see him gaining enough momentum to carry him to the top of the ticket.

Eric Swalwell

The young Californian was actually born in our great state of Iowa, and the Sac City native is leaning heavily on his connection to the Hawkeye State for his prospective success in the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

But unlike Ryan, Swalwell doesn’t have much of record outside of a vague narrative about his background. First elected to Congress in 2013, he has done some work on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, but that doesn’t seem to be the centerpiece of his campaign.

RELATED: Eric Swalwell touts gun-control reform in North Liberty

As The Daily Iowan covered in April, the issue Swalwell latches on to is gun control. “As a prosecutor, I saw what happens when the most dangerous weapons ended up in the hands of the most dangerous people,” he said. “I will be a president who makes ending gun violence a priority.” It’s conceivable that one or more major mass shootings could propel him up the polls a little, but it’s much more likely firearm reform will just become re-emphasized on the Democratic platform rather than elevate a virtually unknown candidate.

Seth Moulton

Moulton has even less political experience than Swalwell, but in his defense, he was busy fighting in the Iraq War. As a captain in the Marines, Moulton has received two Bronze Stars with valor. He joined the Corps shortly after the 9/11 attacks and began serving overseas shortly thereafter.

While his heroism may have been enough to win him three terms in Congress, he doesn’t offer much else as a presidential candidate. He’s pretty boring on policy, neither left nor center. He has a pretty bipartisan voting record, however, so he might be similar to Ryan with attempts to win over the center.

RELATED: Congressman and military veteran Seth Moulton speaks at UI while considering 2020 presidential bid 

But he’s no Eisenhower. Moulton won’t be able to spin enough of a war-hero story to get much of anyone to support him, especially with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg already claiming the label of the millennial veteran. As with Ryan and Swalwell, he’ll probably drop out after Iowa. 

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