WASHINGTON — Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan says one of his aides logged into Facebook last month only to be reminded that it had been a year since his boss launched a quixotic campaign to oust Nancy Pelosi as the House Democratic leader.

“It had to be done,” Ryan said of the failed attempt.

What is the Niles congressman doing these days? He’s traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire, traditional sites of the first two presidential contests. But he points out that he’s also going to Florida and Kentucky, West Virginia and Alabama — hardly early presidential states.

So why is he going? Simply because he was invited, he said.

These days, the 44–year–old lawmaker issues statements on everything from former Trump aide Michael Flynn’s guilty plea to the death of Civil Rights icon Simeon Booker.

And, most tellingly, in the aftermath of the Democrats’ great shellacking in 2016, Ryan — always one to flirt with, but never commit to, higher office — went big: He challenged Pelosi for her leadership position, arguing that the party had strayed from its working–class roots.

He lost. Decidedly.

“I hear a voice here, and I hear the voice of candidate,” MSNBC host Chris Matthews told him when he appeared on Hardball in September. “Are you running? Why don’t you just say you’re running?”

Ryan was, at least for a politician, candid.

“I don’t know if I am,” he said.

That’s a familiar position for Ryan, a Democrat who has served in Congress since 2003, replacing his former boss, bombastic and legally troubled Rep. Jim Traficant. Ryan, once thought to be a bright young light in the party, has turned into something else: A veteran politician. Of the 16 members of Ohio’s U.S. House delegation, he has been there the fourth–longest.

Over the years, Ryan’s name has become a perennial one when a statewide office, such as for the Senate or governor, opens up.

But until he challenged Pelosi, Ryan seemed content to remain in his safe House seat, doling out appropriations for projects that he believed would help northeast Ohio.

And he was both satisfied with where he was and, as a veteran of politics, well aware of the risk and sacrifices that running for statewide office brings.

“This is where I grew up, at the end of the day this is where I want to live, this is where my kids are growing up,” he said of his northeast Ohio district. “I’m not willing to risk this position.”

But 2016 changed that. His safe seat — which he won with nearly 68 percent of the vote in 2016 — remained safe, but the region itself shifted dramatically. Mahoning County, which President Barack Obama won with 62 percent in 2008 and 63 percent in 2012, didn’t flip entirely, but Hillary Clinton eked out a 49.8 percent win to Trump’s 46.8 percent.

Trump won Ohio overall, and the rest of the industrial Midwest fell like dominoes: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. He did so in part by using the same rhetoric that the Democrats had used to draw working class voters for years: NAFTA was sucking jobs out of the U.S., China was ripping the U.S. off, the U.S. trade policy was hurting the working class.

Ryan knew that song well: He’d been singing it for more than a decade.

Meanwhile, Clinton focused her attention on nearby Cleveland. She only came to Youngstown once, Ryan said. In Trumbull County — which had suffered devastating manufacturing job losses between 2000 and 2010 — “there were just too many Trump signs,” Ryan said.

It wasn’t just the lack of focus by Democrats, the feeling that traditionally Democratic strongholds were being taken for granted. It was that he felt like Trump was telling people what they wanted to hear, Ryan said.

“You know what I thought?” he asked. “He’s lying. He’s lying to people to get them to vote for him. I just think that’s the crudest, most cynical type of politician.”

Ryan was horrified — and galvanized.

Within days of Trump’s victory, he was challenging Pelosi — a wild ride of an experience in which his staff briefly hired a satellite truck to follow him so he could have easy access to cable TV cameras looking for a pithy quote on the state of the Democratic Party.

In the end, Pelosi won 134-63.

But Ryan had found a voice — and he isn’t willing to silence it.

“We had an opinion and we wanted to make sure people heard it,” he said after his defeat. “I felt like it was my responsibility to step up and give voice to the people from Ohio that have really, I think, felt disconnected in a lot of ways from the Democratic Party.”

Mahoning County Democratic Party Chair David Betras said the party needs to do some soul-searching.

“Tim’s average constituent makes $54,000 a year,” he said. “Nancy Pelosi’s average constituent makes $110,000 a year. When you parallel those sort of statistics it says a lot.”

He’s hopeful Ryan runs for president.

“I’ve seen him go from a room full of Wall Street investors to a room full of blue collar workers and not miss a beat ,” he said.

Republicans, meanwhile, say they’d welcome the chance to run against Ryan.

“Tim Ryan is a liberal lightweight,” said Corry Bliss, executive director of the American Action Network, an organization that promotes center-right policies. “The idea of him running for statewide office is laughable, let alone national office.”

For his part, Ryan said he’s neither ruled in nor ruled out a presidential bid, simply saying “I want to play a leadership role.”

Should he run, Ryan would join a cadre of Democratic hopefuls, a group that could include former Vice President Joe Biden, 2016 contender Bernie Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Cory Booker of New Jersey, among others.

“There very well could be a dozen or more presidential candidates for the Democrats in 2020, and the more people who eventually enter, the more people might say “hey, with a dozen competitors, maybe I could win Iowa with 20 percent of the vote,” said Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

But Ryan could have cache, said Mark Caleb Smith, director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville University.

“He is an experienced member of Congress from the Midwest, which is a battleground right now,” he said. “Someone who can appeal to Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania voters could be powerful.”

Still, those who watch him have seen this show before.

“I won’t believe he is an actual candidate until he announces,” said Kondik.