As 10 presidential hopefuls flock to Houston for the third installment of the Democratic debates this week, nearly half of the crowded field will not be there because of ramped up qualifications set by the DNC. And while some have pounced on the new rules, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) isn't concerned.
Rather, Ryan, Skyping from Manchester, New Hampshire, told Cheddar his campaign is "focused on the ground", speaking with voters and discussing his vision for America.
"We are going old school, we're going on the ground, and it's been successful," the Ohio Democrat said.
And while Ryan remained optimistic about his presidential run, some candidates, like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), have attacked the DNC for increasing debate qualifying standards.
Gabbard told Fox News last month that the DNC lacks transparency in promoting how the qualifications function:
"And you've got to jump way down into the weeds of the numbers and the statistics. But I think the bigger problem is that the whole process really lacks transparency," Gabbard told Tucker Carlson.
Meanwhile, Bennet issued a series of 11 questions directed at DNC Chair Tom Perez, asking about the polling and donor requirement nuances, while attacking the committee's inability to reflect the goals of the debate.
Ryan acknowledged some of the difficulties fellow candidates noted in meeting increasingly stringent debate requirements so early in the race.
"To be fair, it's a difficult situation to try to deal with. I think it's way too early," Ryan said of the tightened restrictions. "It's hard to artificially try to winnow the field, especially in August and September, when there's so much runway ahead."
However, Ryan was critical of some of his contenders' efforts to get on the stage — in particular, with how they spend their money. "I really think that the idea of the low-dollar donors, where candidates are literally spending $60, $70 dollars to get a $1 contribution has totally distorted the natural rhythms of a campaign."
But Ryan says it's not the debate requirements that are causing problems for the Democrats. Internal fractures have deeply divided the party.
Ryan, whose state voted for Trump in 2016, said the progressivie policies some of his fellow candidates are suggesting, like decrmininalizing border crossings, replacing private health care options, and providing free health care for all undocumented immigrants could lead moderate voters back to Trump.
"Polarizing issues here, that people are going to look at Donald Trump, and say, well, I don't know, I don't like what he does, but my goodness gracious, these guys aren't talking about my issues," Ryan said.