“We were talking a lot about issues that weren’t deeply economic, and I think that provided a huge opening for Donald Trump to come in, and that led to the disaster that happened on Tuesday,” Ryan said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
He pointed out that a month before Congress left Washington to hit the campaign trail full time, Democrats were battling for increased funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fight the Zika virus.
“That’s not a deep economic message that’s a national message; that’s a message in a couple (of) regions in the country. And I think things like that throw us off track,” Ryan said.
“We need a brand as a party that says, we are the party that is going to help working-class people — white people, black people, brown people, gay people, straight people; improve opportunity for them to grow their wages, to have security, economic security,” he said. “We got off that message, and when we don’t talk about economics, we lose elections.”
Ryan described Democrats as in the middle of a “family fight.” In a blow to Pelosi, House Democrats postponed their leadership election that had originally been expected to take place last week.
Ryan said he lives in a district where Trump beat Hillary Clinton — and that the party’s path back to a House majority requires winning some of those seats.
“I know who these people are. Some of them are friends of mine, neighbors of mine, who voted for me and voted for Donald Trump,” he said. “We have to get those people back into the fold, and as I told my colleagues, I know in my heart that we cannot win the House back under the current leadership. It’s time for a change.”
Ryan said he’s willing to work with Trump — as long as Trump doesn’t cross Democrats on some of the party’s top priorities.
“If he tries to defund Planned Parenthood, if he tries to kick people off their health insurance, if they try to privatize Medicare or cut taxes for the wealthy, you know, we’re going to have a Youngstown street fight in the Capitol. That’s what’s going to happen,” he said.
“If he has other opportunities where we can grow the economy, where we can invest in working-class people — knowing that one-third of working-class people are people of color, so this is a broad coalition — then we will look for places to look for him.”
Tapper asked Ryan whether infrastructure is one potential area of cooperation. But Ryan said so far, Trump’s infrastructure proposal “looks like a bunch of smoke and mirrors and corporate giveaways.”