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Posted at 08:33 AM ET, 12/09/2011

The Morning Plum

* Mitt Romney fully embraces Ryan Medicare plan: It’s now becoming clear that a full on embrace of Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as we know it will be absolutely central to Mitt Romney’s strategy for tearing down the surging Newt Gingrich. This is made plain in a new Web ad the Romney campaign released this morning that goes all in on Ryancare, bludgeoning Gingrich mercilessly over his claim that Ryan’s plan amounted to “right wing social engineering.”

The ad is tough stuff, featuring a barrage of quotes from Republicans and conservatives lambasting Gingrich for his anti-Ryan apostasy. It’s a reminder of how hallowed Ryan’s plan remains for conservatives; the willingness to end Medicare’s essential mission and transform it into something approximating a voucher program is now a make or break litmus test issue for conservatives. But as I noted here yesterday, Dems are salivating at the prospect of using Romney’s embrace of the deeply unpopular Ryan plan in a general election, as a way of winning back seniors and other voter groups that deserted Dems in 2010..

What needs to be nailed down now is what exactly Romney’s embrace of Ryancare means. Does it mean that the Ryan plan is now Romney’s own plan? Keep in mind that Romney has said he’d sign Ryancare if it came to his desk, but he has also said he will be offering his own plan. “His plan is not the plan I’ll put forward,” Romney told ABC News in June.

So, now that Romney is slamming Newt over his criticism of Ryan, does Romney now see Ryan’s specific approach to quasi-voucherizing Medicare as the basis for his own?

Romney has fudged his way out of this kind of situation before. He attacked Gingrich over the latter’s humane opposition to deporting longtime illegal residents — even as the Romney campaign refused to say whether he supports such mass deportation. With Romney now attacking Newt’s criticism of Ryan, Romney shouldn’t be allowed to fudge or equivocate on where he stands on Medicare.

* In search of “job creators” who object to the millionaire surtax: Must-read of the morning: NPR talked to business owners who would be impacted by the surtax, and couldn’t seem to find any who said it would impact their job creation capacities or objected to the surtax.

* How will Gingrich respond to Romney’s negative onslaught? The pro-Romney forces are entering a new phase, in which they are throwing everything they have at Newt Gingrich. Yet all indications are that Gingrich will continue to stay positive, in an apparent effort to maintain an above-the-fray frontrunner’s air:

“We’re going to stay positive, we’re going to stay solution-oriented and talk about what America needs to do,” Gingrich said after a campaign stop in Greenville, S.C. “The only opponent I have is Barack Obama.”

The Romney onslaught is going to be fierce and relentless, so it bears watching how much longer Gingrich can sustain this response.

* Pro-Romney super PAC accidentally releases unfinished ad: Remember that ad from the pro-Romney Restore Our Future PAC that laughably attacks Gingrich for supporting the individual mandate? Turns out that the PAC accidentally released an unfinished version of the spot, quickly retracted it, and is now refusing to comment.

* GOP establishment gears up to stop Gingrich: The twin blasts at Gingrich from David Brooks and Michael Gerson are remarkably similar, both lamenting his lack of discipline and his runaway ego — a clear sign of real panic at the prospect of someone with Gingrich’s character and temperament running against the President.

* Gingrich’s Speaker tenure to come under scrutiny: Major Garrett’s deep dive into Gingrich’s tumultous tenure as House Speaker suggests that recalling his failings during that era will be central to efforts to destroy his surging candidacy.

* Dems seek to capi­tal­ize on Romney’s new negativity: The Obama-allied Priorities USA is out with a new memo that recaps Romney’s negative 2008 campaign and argues that the new anti-Newt onslaught confirms that Romney will say or do anything to win. “The more desperate Romney gets, the more negative he becomes,” it says.

Obama allies have settled on their preferred definition of Romney as a soulless, flip-flopping opportunist, and everything that happens in the GOP primary will be used to build that narrative.

* Is GOP headed for a brokered convention? Nate Silver aptly sums up the problem the GOP faces: “Republicans are dangerously close to having none of their candidates be acceptable to both rank-and-file voters and the party establishment.”

And Nate’s analysis shows that if that dynamic holds, Republicans may soon find themselves in a situation that’s historically unprecedented.

* Romney campaign keeps up the flagrant distortions: Glenn Kessler demolishes the latest from Romney: That Obama “bowed to foreign dictators.” Note the justification for this from Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom, who insisted that the claim was broadly meant as “metaphorical.”

Readers with long memories will recall that Fehrnstrom boasted that the widely pilloried ad distorting Obama’s words on the economy was a whopping success because it baited the Obama team into responding.

* Conservatives keep defending the rich at all costs: The premise of Charles Krauthammer’s column today is that Obama is running a “class resentment” campaign targeting the “rich” because he’s not willing to accept any “responsibility for our current economic distress.”

Hmmm. Not sure how you square this with Obama’s recent claim that the economy is “always my responsibility,” but I’m sure those two things can somehow be reconciled if we try hard enough.

* And no, it’s not about punishing the rich: It’s instructive to read Krauthammer’s column along side today’s effort from Paul Krugman, who patiently explains what liberals are actually arguing in the real world:

Contrary to conservative claims, liberals aren’t out to demonize or punish the rich. But they do object to the attempts of the right to do the opposite, to canonize the wealthy and exempt them from the sacrifices everyone else is expected to make because of the wonderful things they supposedly do for the rest of us.

And, above all, we must never imply that the enormous gap in fortune between the wealthy and the rest of us isn’t entirely a reflection of merit.

What else is happening?

By  |  08:33 AM ET, 12/09/2011

 
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