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Tim Ryan Struggles to Reach Ohio’s Exhausted Majority

Mr. Ryan condemned anti-Asian violence but said that he was speaking specifically about government policies of the Chinese Communist Party that have hurt Ohio workers and that he was not backing down.

Seven months before the November election, it is too early to say whether the Ryan playbook is working. Interviews with voters, former elected officials and community leaders in Niles, Warren and other towns in the industrial region known as the Mahoning Valley showed just how hard the midterms will be for Democrats, and for Mr. Ryan. His jobs-and-the-economy message clashes with the prices working-class voters have been paying at the grocery store and at the gas pump.

Many Republican voters in this part of the Mahoning Valley were quick to dismiss any Democrat as unviable, citing gas prices, inflation and the U.S.-Mexico border as Democratic problems that needed Republican solutions. Democrats tended to be split between those who supported Mr. Ryan and those wary he had become too much a part of the Democratic establishment. Even anti-Trump voters have been in an anti-establishment frame of mind.

Outside the Hot Dog Shoppe in Warren, Royce VanDervort, 76, who worked for the Packard electric division at General Motors, said he understood why people grew tired of the Democratic political machine amid factory closures and job losses, but was surprised by just how strong and enduring the Trump appeal has been. He is a die-hard Democrat and said he supports Mr. Ryan. “Too old to change now,” he added.

But Mr. VanDervort’s friend and neighbor, Dennis Garito, 57, was the kind of voter Mr. Ryan has been trying to win back. A retired fabrication worker and a Democrat for 35 years, Mr. Garito now describes himself as an independent. On the one hand, he said, he worries Mr. Ryan and other Democrats have lost touch with the people they represent. On the other, he has grown sick of far-right Republicans who argue, he said, like “kids fighting.”

He plans to vote for Mr. Ryan in the Democratic primary in May. But if an anti-Trump Republican, State Senator Matt Dolan, wins the Republican primary and makes it on the ballot in November, Mr. Ryan will likely lose Mr. Garito’s vote. “If it comes down between Dolan and Ryan, I’m probably going to vote for Dolan,” Mr. Garito said. Mr. Ryan, he added, had become “too much of a career politician.”

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