Here’s something that will hearten those on the left who are hoping for an aggressive Dem response to Paul Ryan’s proposals to end Medicare and Medicaid as we know them.
National Dems say they are planning to use Ryan’s budget as a weapon in numerous Senate races, in order to draw a sharp contrast between the parties on fiscal matters and to tar GOP candidates as in the pocket of the rich and hostile to the interests of the elderly.
“Republicans running for United State Senate will be forced to explain why they want to protect oil companies and hand more tax giveaways to the ultra rich, but do away with Medicare and slash funds for nursing homes,” Matt Canter, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement emailed my way. “Democrats are committed to fiscal discipline, but Republicans have the wrong priorities and it will cost them in 2012.”
Here’s the sort of thing Dems say they’ll be doing. GOP Rep. Todd Aiken, who is expected to run for Senate in Missouri, was standing next to Ryan when he announced his proposal yesterday. Dems are hoping to highlight this image of Aiken gazing upon Ryan as a weapon in the manner that, say, Dem opponents of Joe Lieberman used imagery of him kissing Bush in the 2006 Senate race.
Dems are also hoping to use the Ryan proposal against numerous other candidates.
“Republican Senate candidates from Scott Brown in Massachusetts to Dean Heller in Nevada are already giving big bear hugs to the Paul Ryan budget plan that ends Medicare as we know it,” DSCC spokesman Canter continued. “Other Senate candidates, including Denny Rehberg in Montana, Dick Lugar in Indiana, Olympia Snowe in Maine, and Jeff Flake in Arizona, are all considering the plan.”
Here’s why this is interesting. As of now, we still don’t know how aggressively President Obama and Congressional Dems will respond to Ryan’s proposal, which an extremely ambitious effort to revamp the proper role of government, rewrite the American social contract and undo a legacy that has helped define the Democratic Party for decades. Yes, the White House and Dems have issued statements condeming the plan. But we simply can’t know right now how much ground Obama and Congressional Dems will give when the actual negotiating over the fate of these programs starts in earnest.
If strategists at the party committees think the Ryan proposal will be useful in numerous races — sharply defining the contrast between the parties by laying bare the GOP’s true fiscal priorities — you’d think that would be an added incentive for Obama and Congressional Dems to stand firm in defense of these programs, rather than give ground in a way that will only serve to muddle that contrast.
UPDATE: The DCCC is also using the Ryan proposal to go on the offensive in multiple races.
UPDATE II: NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh responds:
“Funny, it was exactly at this same point two years ago that national Democrats were desperately trying to spin the narrative that Republicans would ‘pay a price’ for opposing the $787 billion stimulus and their massive health care proposals. I’d encourage those who might buy into this latest spin to contact Robin Carnahan, Lee Fisher, Paul Hodes, Jack Conway, Brad Ellsworth, Joe Sestak, and others, and ask how that ended up working out for them. But look if national Democrats want to spend their time spinning meaningless Beltway narratives instead of recruiting candidates in Republican-held seats than by all means I’d encourage them to keep doing it.”