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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Senate Democrats Shift Strategy on Ryan


The Democrats' war on Representative Paul D. Ryan has moved into the Upper Chamber, and it is extending beyond the battle over Medicare.

House Republicans have already told their members to embrace Mr. Ryan and the Medicare fight he represents, because it is one they think they can win while Democrats, who are seeking to retake the House, assert that Mr. Ryan is a liability. Senate Democrats will now try to extend the fight to other policy areas.

On Wednesday, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Democrats' message man, sent a memo to all of his Democratic colleagues urging them to use the August recess to move beyond the slogan that Mr. Ryan would “end Medicare as we know it” and to make the case that Mr. Ryan is disingenuous in his positions on deficit reduction.

“The case for Paul Ryan goes something like this: Even if you disagree with his policy ideas, his proposals at least represent a good-faith appeal for deficit reduction that is both serious and statesmanlike,” the memo said.

“This appears to be the message Mitt Romney hopes to sell with his risky selection of Ryan as his running mate. But it is an utter myth. In Ryan's budget, the savings achieved by his plan to privatize Medicare and gut investments in the middle class do not go toward reducing the deficit, but rather to pay for further tax cuts for the wealthy. Ryan is a nice man, but a deficit hawk he is not,” it continued.

Pushing the fiscal argument will, Mr. Schumer added, “increase the likelihood that Romney's choice of Ryan will backfire.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, has warned his members that this sort of attack was coming in House races, no matter the vice-presidential nominee. In a conference call with his Republican colleagues Tuesday night, Mr. Boehner emphasized the importance of being on the offensive on the Medicare issue, arguing that at the end of the day it will cut to their party's favor because they have an actual plan to tout.

“The pundits are buzzing that with Paul on the ticket, the Democrats are going to attack us on Medicare. Well, here's a news flash: they were gonna do that anyway. The best defense on Medicare is a good offense. And Paul Ryan gives us the ability to play offense,” Mr. Boehner told his colleagues, according to aides.

Just as Mr. Schumer wants to pivot to the deficit discussion, so too do Republicans have their own message agenda which focuses on the continued high unemployment rate. “Where are the jobs,” is a catch phrase Mr. Ryan has adopted for the trail.

Mr. Schumer and other Democrats clearly think the Medicare issue is a winner for them. “As familiar as these points may seem by now, we must keep repeating them - for two reasons,” he said. “First, many general election voters are only now turning their attention to the particulars of the political debate. Second, since choosing Ryan, Romney is rather absurdly seeking to distance himself from the most controversial aspects of Ryan's plan. We must do our part to make Romney own the Ryan plan in its entirety.”

Mr. Schumer said pointing out Mr. Ryan's support for Medicare Part D, an expensive entitlement program addition, and his vote against the Simpson-Bowles framework on deficit reduction are other good things to point out.