Room for improvement: YSU political expert critiques Ryan’s debate performance

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"You have to answer the question and you can't always go back to your talking points," Paul Sracic said

ORLANDO, Fla. (WKBN) – The day after Valley Congressman Tim Ryan participated in the first Democratic presidential debate, a political expert from Youngstown State said there’s room for improvement before the next one.

When he had the chance to speak, Ryan did what he could to appeal to what some refer to as “flyover America.”

“We have got to change the center of gravity of the Democratic Party from being coastal, elitist and Ivy League,” he said during Wednesday night’s debate.

Then he was asked about getting America out of seemingly endless wars in the Middle East and southwest Asia, promoting an exchange with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran.

“When we weren’t in there, they started flying planes into our buildings so I’m just saying right now we have an obligation,” Ryan said.

“Taliban didn’t attack us on 9/11. Al Qaeda did,” Gabbard responded.

WATCH: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s showdown with Congressman Tim Ryan

Almost immediately, Ryan was criticized for the gaff — something YSU Political Science Chairman Paul Sracic called somewhat unfair. He said the Congressman did try to correct his mistake right away.

“But nevertheless, he kind of got himself in a bad position and didn’t come out winning.”

Sracic has been in Japan the last several months on a Fulbright Scholarship. He still watched the debate, though.

He said while Ryan gave passionate answers to questions, he made too many references to his hometown.

“This is a national election, you know? You have to answer the question and you can’t always go back to your talking points, and that’s what he seemed to be doing too much, I think.”

Ryan is expected to be part of the next set of debates at the end of July. Between now and then, Sracic said he needs to do a lot more prep work.

“He’s got to really get some more policies out there, be ready to answer questions that aren’t just about appealing to working-class voters.”

Ryan was quick to respond to criticisms of his performance in Orlando, saying his message came through loud and clear. He claimed he’s already seeing positive results.

“I got invited to a union rally here, down here, with workers at an SEIU union. So my message is starting to break through and I’m starting to get clearly defined in this race as the person that can put the working class coalition together to beat Donald Trump. Can’t ask for any more than that,” Ryan said.

He thinks if he can stay on that message, he still has a chance of capturing the Democratic nomination a year from now.

“I mean, there’s no secret sauce other than hard work and traveling to the early states, raising money and getting as much national media attention as I possibly can, asking people back home to help out as much as they can with low-dollar donations,” Ryan said.

Local Democrats will be getting together to watch the second debate Thursday night. That debate features 10 other Democratic candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The Mahoning County Young Democrats and Progress MV are hosting the watch party.

If you want to go, it will be at Rhine Haus Bier Hall in downtown Youngstown at 8:30 p.m. The event is free, and all parties are welcome.

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