Paul Ryan and the 2012 presidential race


Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 5, 2011. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

But the reaction among Republicans likely to run for the nation’s top office next year was less than forceful, evidence of the political danger inherent in supporting any one plan with as many specific cuts and changes — particularly to programs like Medicare — as Ryan’s proposal contains.

The closest to a full-throated endorsement came from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), who himself has been sounding the debt alarm for months.

“The House budget resolution is the first serious proposal produced by either party to deal with the overriding issue of our time,” Daniels said in a statement. “Anyone criticizing this plan without offering a specific and equally bold program of his own has failed in the public duty to be honest and clear with Americans about the gravest danger we are facing together.”

Others voiced guarded support for the idea of the proposal, if not for the specifics contained within it.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee called Ryan’s plan a “start” but added that “it’s doubtful the House’s proposal will be passed in its current form, and it’s unlikely the proposal will be the ultimate solution to all of our economic problems.”

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney praised Ryan’s “bold thinking” and lauded the Wisconsin Republican for “setting the right tone” but made no comment about the detailed changes that his budget proposed.

And former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty offered a brief word of praise for Ryan before using the occasion to reiterate his opposition to raising the debt ceiling.

That the 2012 candidates are avoiding wrapping themselves in the Ryan proposal is not surprising.

Polling suggests that nearly every way to take a major chunk out of the federal deficit is unpopular with the American public. Of nine options to reduce the debt provided in a December Washington Post/ABC News poll, not a single one garnered majority support.

The presidential primary process is about addition — finding ways to convince people who are either undecided or supporting a candidate who drops from the race to come to your side. Backing proposals that lack public approval is a recipe to subtract from your base, not add to it.

That’s why the major Republican candidates are likely to do to little more than provide lip-service support for the Ryan proposal. They know that being tied too closely with the plan (or, more broadly, with Republicans in Congress) could endanger their ability to speak to certain key constituencies — particularly seniors — which they need to win the nomination.

While Republican candidates would prefer not to engage on the specifics of the Ryan proposal, it’s a near-certainty that President Obama’s campaign team will do everything they can to make it an issue for voters come next November

Huckabee polls strongly again: Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee continues to poll like Republicans’ best general election candidate, even though it’s not clear that he will run for president again.

A new Gallup poll shows that Huckabee remains the candidate with the most “positive intensity” — i.e. the percentage of Republicans who view him very favorably minus those who view him very unfavorably — at 27 percent.

Pizza magnate Herman Cain is in a surprising second place, at 21; former Massacchusetts governor Mitt Romney comes in third at 20; and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are both at 19. The rest are scattered in the teens.

The fact that Huckabee is sofar ahead of the pack speaks volumes. Nobody else could enter the race with such a good reputation or early standing in the polls against President Obama. Many are skeptical that Huckabee will run. Even if he’s not terribly apt to, though, the polling has to be intriguing. Put another way: if it looks this friendly in a couple months, can he say no?

Ben LaBolt back to Obama team: A spokesman who followed Barack Obama from the Senate to the White House is rejoining the president’s team for 2012.

Ben LaBolt, 29, left the administration to work for Rahm Emanuel in October of last year, when Emanuel was running for mayor of Chicago. Now he’s going back to Obama, as press secretary for the next presidential campaign. LaBolt will make the switch after Emanuel’s inauguration in May. His deputy press secretary will be Katie Hogan, another Chicago native who served on the presidential campaign and in the White House.

Campaign manager Jim Messina has been quickly putting together a team for the reelection campaign, which officially kicked off on Monday.

A final Iowa map?: State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say a plan proposed by Iowa’s redistricting commission will probably garner enough support to pass in both chambers of the state legislature.

The state’s GOP House speaker and Democratic House leader both suggested they were leaning towards supporting the proposal, which would put Republican Reps. Tom Latham and Steve King into one district and Democratic Reps. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack into another. Rep. Leonard Boswell’s (D-Iowa.) district would also undergo significant changes.

The state is dropping from five to four districts. It is expected that Loebsack, rather than running against Braley in a primary, will move to the fourth seat, which covers much of the territory he currently represents in the southeastern part of the state.

Tight Supreme Court race in Wisconsin: Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser’s reelection race was too close to call early Wednesday morning. According to AP, Prosser led assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg by fewer than 600 votes with just 34 of more than 3,600 precincts yet to be counted.

As we noted on The Fix on Tuesday, defeating Prosser has become a cause celebre among union activists angered by Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) move to strip collective bargaining rights from public sector unions. And a Kloppenburg victory would shift the ideological balance of the court to the left, priming the court for when it takes up Walker’s proposals.

Meanwhile, Democrats won Walker’s old Milwaukee County executive post, with the defeated Republican candidate citing the brouhaha at the state capitol for his defeat.

Fixbits:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is having a rough go of things, with his disapproval rating rising from 22 percent to 48 percent over the last two months alone, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll. His approval rating remained at 35 percent.

A congressional redistricting plan that was backed by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) failed to pass in the state Senate, while another plan passed. The plans are very similar, except Jindal wants two vertical northern Louisiana districts, while the Senate plan has two horizontal districts in their place.

Jon Huntsman is going to New Hampshire for the first time in May. The current ambassador to China and potential presidential candiate will deliver the commencement speech at Southern New Hampshire University.

Tim Kaine (D) is reassembling much of the same team that helped him to victory in Virginia’s 2005 governor’s race for his 2012 Senate race.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) raised $1.7 million in the first quarter and currently has $8.3 million cash on hand.

The tea party candidate in the Kentucky Republican governor primary, Phil Moffett, has money problems, most recently raising just $10,000 in a two-day “money bomb.” Meanwhile, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is up with his first radio ad.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who is likely to run for governor, joins those advoacating for a potential government shutdown.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) will decide on a presidential run in about a month.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) will speak at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on May 4.

Must-reads:

Tim Pawlenty is the latest entry into the ‘Christie primary’” — Jonathan Martin, Politico

Ryan’s blueprint comes to fore” — Lori Montgomery and Phil Rucker, Washington Post


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