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‘They’re hungry for it’: Democrat Randy Bryce says Medicare for All will help him defeat Paul Ryan

"My ears are still ringing from the cheers."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (right) campaigns with Randy Bryce at a rally on February 24, 2018 in Racine, Wisconsin. CREDIT: Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (right) campaigns with Randy Bryce at a rally on February 24, 2018 in Racine, Wisconsin. CREDIT: Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Randy Bryce has a plan to take down House Speaker Paul Ryan. It all boils down to this: be everything Ryan isn’t and promote everything he refuses to promote.

“I’m the kind of person that we need to get rid of him… I’m the opposite of what he is,” Bryce, a Democrat who’s challenging Ryan in Wisconsin’s first district, told ThinkProgress on Tuesday.

Bryce outlined what he sees as the path to unseating the speaker, touting a new, 18-point policy plan which includes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, fully staffing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), supporting family farms, and renegotiating NAFTA, among a number of other progressive economic policies.

“They’re hungry for it,” Bryce said of the public reaction to his policy roll-out. “In Wisconsin, we’ve been under attack ever since Scott Walker and the Republicans took over the state.”

But what people seem most excited about, Bryce said, is passing Medicare for All.

“My ears are still ringing from the cheers of people,” Bryce said, referring to the audience reaction at a rally he held Monday to announce his economic policy platform. “It’s something that affects everybody, and it’s more than past due for us to look after each other.”

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The issue is a personal one for Bryce, whose mother is managing a multiple sclerosis diagnosis and whose father has Alzheimer’s. Additionally, as an ironworker, Bryce’s work often slows during the winter months, making it difficult to afford basic health care for his son.

“It’s something that’s very important to me,” he said Tuesday.

Shortly before Bryce spoke with ThinkProgress on Tuesday, The Intercept reported an internal memo sent by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), informing candidates of the position leaders wanted them to take on health care. The memo included poll results from a survey of 52 “battleground” districts, which asked asked respondents, “If you could change one thing about your healthcare or health insurance, what would it be?”

Forty-four percent of those surveyed said, “Make it cheaper, more affordable, lower premiums, deductibles, [and] drug prices.” The two results that followed — tied at 12 percent — were “nothing, no complaints” and “make it single-payer, universal, socialized.”

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The DCCC decided to use that polling to caution Democrats against arguing for “repealing or replacing” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “with something radically different.”

“The American people overwhelmingly want Congress to improve the Affordable Care Act, not repeal it or replace it with something radically different,” the memo obtained read. “We need to offer reasonable solutions to improve the law instead of a massive overhaul.”

Bryce said Tuesday that he hadn’t seen the Intercept report. “The DCCC, I’m sure they have their reasons,” he said. “[But] from a personal standpoint, [Medicare for All is] something I committed to early on in the campaign and it’s something I’m going to stick to. We showed early on who we are.”

From the beginning, Bryce has also proudly supported labor unions, and his own campaign staffers recently unionized themselves. It’s a new experience, being on the management side of a union, but Bryce said Tuesday that he was very supportive of the move.

“‘Yeah let’s do it. Why not?'” Bryce said he told the staffers. “That’s what I’ve been pushing for everybody else to do!”

He added, “These are the people that are responsible for winning this election for me. It’s the very least I could do.”

That kind of confidence seems to drive Bryce’s whole campaign. Nicknamed “Iron Stache,” Bryce shot onto the scene last June with a viral video pitching Wisconsin voters on why he was the man to take down Ryan, and he’s been presenting his case to voters ever since.

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“For the past 20 years, I’ve been in this area struggling…. Meanwhile, Paul Ryan has been in D.C.,” Bryce said Tuesday, adding that Ryan hasn’t held a town hall in two years. “[Ryan’s] not looking out for people in the first district. I don’t know how anybody can claim to care for anyone they haven’t seen for years on end.”

In recent weeks, Bryce has begun to look like a might even represent a threat to the speaker: a poll commissioned by the campaign in December claimed that Bryce trailed Ryan by just six points, 46 to 40.

Additionally, in the fourth quarter of 2017 alone, Bryce raised a whopping $1.2 million — and he’s very literally begun to profit from Ryan’s missteps. In the wake of Ryan’s now-infamous $1.50 tweet, Bryce raised $150,000 in just 48 hours from 12,253 donors.

More than half of the donations were for $1.50.