That hasn’t stopped Bryce, who tweets as “@ironstache,” from settling into a role as a progressive cause celebre. His $550,000-plus fundraising haul is larger than most first-time candidates and enough to run a real campaign. This week, the Working Families Party gave Bryce its first federal endorsement for the 2018 cycle; Wisconsin’s branch of the party had urged Bryce to run in the first place; later this month Bryce heads to heads to New York, where the party was founded, for a $50-per-head fundraiser. The argument, everywhere, is that Ryan’s southeast Wisconsin district truly was winnable.
“Obama won this district in 2008, and Ryan couldn’t win his own neighborhood in 2012,” said Bryce in an interview. “Paul Ryan won’t even come back and tell us how this health bill is going to affect us.”
In a year where progressives have repeatedly fallen for long-shot candidates in red districts, only to have their hearts broken on Election Day, Bryce has fit into the pattern while promising to break it. Ryan’s 1st district, he argues, was drawn to elect a Republican, but is far less historically red than places where Democrats have fallen short this year.
In other races, Democrats don’t even need that kind of pitch. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.), who is leaving his safe House seat to run against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), announced this week that he has raised $2.1 million since entering the race — putting him ahead of Cruz on fundraising for the quarter. Both O’Rourke and Bryce are running as unabashed progressives, against the GOP’s health-care bill, and generally supportive of universal Medicare. (O’Rourke is expected to offer his own vision for how that could work to dodge attacks on the existing Democratic single-payer plan.)
This month, Bryce also attracted his first negative attention, when CNN interviewers grilled him on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. Bryce repeatedly said he’d formulate a response after meeting with experts in Washington; the NRCC pounced, saying that “calling Randy Bryce’s interview on CNN a dumpster fire simply doesn’t do it justice.”
In an interview, Bryce repeated himself: He wanted to know more about the issue before he said anything. “When they asked me that, I didn’t know the specifics on what kind of missile was fired,” he said. “I’m an ironworker who just finished working on a parking structure at VA, so it was hard to make a determination without knowing more. We’ve got long-standing coalitions with China and Japan, but it’s the president’s job to manage that. We’ve been able to contain North Korea for 50 years.”