Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, has hired Pete D’Alessandro – a veteran Democratic operative who served as Bernie Sanders’ campaign coordinator in Iowa during his 2016 presidential campaign – to be his advisor on the ground in Iowa this year ahead of a possible presidential run in 2020, according to a Democratic source who requested anonymity to discuss the personnel move.
D’Alessandro also confirmed the hire in a phone call with ABC News, but downplayed the connection to Ryan’s budding interest in a potential presidential campaign.
“I’m helping this guy anyway I can through the end of this year,” D’Alessandro said, emphasizing that Ryan supported him during his primary bid for the House this year. “He was here quite a bit for me. That’s how I do things, and that’s how this is being done for the rest of this year, at least.”
D’Alessandro says he will assist Ryan when the congressman visits Iowa, organizing his trips and “helping him meet the right people,” from coordinating logistics to advising him on the best places to go in town.
“I’m just helping him while he’s in town,” D’Alessandro said. “Absolutely love the guy.”
D’Alessandro ran for the House in Iowa’s third congressional district this year but lost his Democratic primary.
Ryan, who is serving in his eighth term in the House, has made several trips to early presidential states during this election cycle.
He has been to New Hampshire four times, South Carolina twice, and is going on trip number five to Iowa. The congressman heads to the Hawkeye State next month to attend the Iowa State Democratic Wing Ding on August 10th in Clear Lake. He also plans another trip to Iowa in September, according to D’Alessandro.
D’Alessandro stressed that his work with Ryan will focus on the 2018 midterms, but he’s “not saying we won’t talk 2020” in the future.
“First things first,” D’Alessandro said.
The exclusive interview with the Democratic operative comes amid a report by The Intercept in which several sources close to Rep. Ryan claim that he has been assembling a team and communicating with political consultants for a presidential bid.
ABC News reached out to the congressman’s spokesman, Michael Zetts, but he declined to comment on the report.
Ryan has represented the 13th district of Ohio, which includes Youngstown and its neighboring areas, since 2002. The district is about 150 miles from Ohio’s capital of Columbus and includes a blue-collar, Rust Belt constituency that has shifted from primarily Democratic to increasingly Republican. In 2016, Donald Trump won the large Trumbell County, marking the first Republican victory in the county in almost 50 years.
Rep. Ryan seeks to stop that shift in its tracks and with an innovative platform – he plans to garner the “yoga vote.”
The Ohio Democrat is a long-time proponent of mindfulness, meditation, and related practices. He pioneered “Quiet Time Caucus” in the House and authored a 2012 book titled: A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit.
The congressional yogi has also worked with YogaVotes, a campaign that aims to get “the 20 million Americans who practice yoga to take their values...into the voting booth.”
Rumors have swirled around whether congressman Ryan would pursue the White House for some time now.
He unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for her minority leadership position after the 2016 election. Earlier this month, Ryan told Politico that he was “strongly leaning” towards taking on Pelosi again in 2018. The statement came after progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset the establishment favorite, Rep. Joe Crowley, in the NY-14 Democratic Primary.
The congressman also considered running for Ohio governor in 2018 and maintains a sizable political operation. He is currently raising money for Danny O’Connor, the Democratic nominee in next month's OH-12 special election.