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Can this mustachioed iron worker beat Paul Ryan?


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When Randy Bryce called me, I was sitting on my mother-in-law's porch having a cigarette and a Coors Light for lunch.

I guess you could say I was trying to get in the right head space for talking to the iron worker in Racine, Wisconsin, whose announcement last week that he is running as a Democrat for House Speaker Paul Ryan's seat in Congress was roughly the political communications equivalent of an atomic wedgie.

"Let's trade places," Bryce said, addressing Ryan directly in the video. "You can come work the iron, and I'll go to D.C."

When I picked up the phone, I was surprised at first that it was Bryce himself and not some frantic scheduler pestering me with instructions about what I would be allowed to ask "Mr. Bryce" — actually, his spokesman insists on calling him "Randy" — about and reminding me how limited our time was going to be. I also couldn't believe that the call came exactly when it was scheduled, at 1:00 p.m. almost to the second.

I probably shouldn't have been surprised. Unlike journalists and speakers of the House, iron workers can't afford to show up late. Randy, who tweets under the @ironstache handle, has been described as "genetically engineered from Bruce Springsteen songs." And it is hard not to cast the 2018 race for Wisconsin's 1st congressional district as a contest of clashing personalities. Ryan is a physical fitness enthusiast, a former prom king, College Republican, and Model U.N. participant, an arch-wonk known for his hatred of smoking. Randy is a veteran who helped build Miller Park in Milwaukee, the home of America's most lovable baseball team. He is somewhat vague about policy, but he is known to make "amazing slow-cooked chicken."


The man who would be Speaker.

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