By DAVID SKOLNICK
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan sought to find his moment during Tuesday night’s presidential debate.
Whether he got one is uncertain.
Ryan verbally sparred a few times with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the frontrunners, which attracted attention.
While Ryan struggled to get speaking time during this debate, in Detroit, he was feistier than he was during last month’s debate in Miami.
During one exchange, Ryan criticized Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, saying union members gave away salary increases to keep good health-care benefits.
He said it was a mistake to tell them “they’re going to lose health care because Washington is going to come in and tell them they’ve got a better plan.”
Ryan said he’d allow people at least 50 years old to buy into Medicare.
Sanders objected to Ryan’s proposal, saying a government-run plan would be more comprehensive.
“You don’t know that, you don’t know that, Bernie,” Ryan said.
Sanders responded: “I do know that. I wrote the damn bill!”
Sanders received applause for the line and before the debate ended, his campaign had sent an email offering an “I wrote the damn bill” sticker for any contribution.
Ryan said Sanders didn’t know all of the union contracts in the country.
“I’m trying to explain that these union members are losing their jobs,” Ryan said. “Their wages have been stagnant. The world is crumbling around them. The only thing they have is possibly really good health care and the Democratic message is going to be, we’re going to go in and the only thing you have left we’re going to take it and we’re going to do better. I do not think that’s a recipe for success for us. It’s bad policy and it’s certainly bad politics.”
Later during the debate, Ryan responded to a question about Sanders wanting to eliminate gas-powered car sales by 2040.
Sanders interjected and Ryan got in a shot saying: “I didn’t say we couldn’t get there until 2040. Bernie, you don’t have to yell.” That got laughs from the crowd.
Of the 10 candidates, Ryan had the third least amount of speaking time during the debate, according to The New York Times.
He also received criticism on social media for being the only candidate to not put his hand over his heart during the national anthem. Instead, Ryan folded his hands in front of him.
In a statement to The Vindicator after the debate, Ryan said, “I’ve given my entire adult life to public service in our country and if you think that you can judge how much I love my country based on whether I put my hand on my heart tonight, it shows you don’t know what patriotism is or what that flag stands for.”
Ryan was able to make some points during the debate.
“In this discussion already tonight we’ve talked about taking private health insurance away from union members in the industrial Midwest, we’ve talked about decriminalizing the border and we’ve talked about giving free health care to undocumented workers when so many Americans are struggling to pay for their health care. I quite frankly don’t think that is an agenda that we can move forward on and win. We’ve just got to talk about working-class issues.”
Ryan and Sanders shared the debate stage with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; ex-U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas; Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; ex-Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; ex-U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland; U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; and author and speaker Marianne Williamson.
A group of another 10 Democratic presidential candidates will debate tonight.
This could be Ryan’s last time on the presidential debate stage.
Ryan qualified for this debate, and one last month, by polling with at least 1 percent in three qualifying polls.
To qualify for the third debate in Houston on Sept. 12 and 13 – the latter date if more than 10 are eligible – and a fourth in October requires candidates to have at least 130,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 400 different donors from at least 20 states, and at least 2 percent support in four qualifying polls between June 28 and Aug. 28.
Ryan reported earlier this month he had about 13,000 donors and he hasn’t polled at 2 percent in any qualifying poll.
Ryan previously told The Vindicator that 130,000 minimum donors “is ridiculous” and “not the way to winnow the field. To limit it to 130,000 low-dollar donors is wrong. We should let the process play out.”