Some of that fallout lingers. The risks are especially high for Republicans facing competitive races in swing and moderate districts in November, and the party hopes to use the lessons learned from last year’s scarring battle to turn the debate to its advantage.
“We’re going to give the country a choice. And we’re going to show the country here’s how you balance the budget, pay off the debt, grow the economy and stop all the cronyism in Washington, picking winners and losers,” Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday,” one of two morning news shows on which he appeared to make a forceful case in support of his plan.
The Democratic opposition will be vigorous, driven in part by the success of its message a year ago. The White House sent senior adviser David Plouffe to three talk shows, in part to counter Ryan’s message, hoping to capitalize on last year’s effort to portray the Ryan plan as a privatization of Medicare.
“It fails the test of balance and fairness and shared responsibility,” Plouffe said of the Ryan budget on ABC’s “This Week.” “It showers huge additional tax cuts on the wealthy that are paid for by veterans and seniors and the middle class.”
The GOP’s approach this year included a full briefing for the Republican presidential candidates before the budget’s release, resulting in a largely unified GOP front, even among the bitterly divided field.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney quickly embraced the plan, as did former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.).
Former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) offered generally positive reviews, passing up the opportunity to separate himself from Romney on the issue by essentially muting past complaints that Ryan’s reforms do not take effect quickly enough. Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) has opposed the plan.
Ryan also sought to quiet complaints from fellow House conservatives by agreeing to cut more deeply from agency budgets for fiscal 2013 than the spending caps agreed to in last summer’s debt-ceiling deal with President Obama and Hill Democrats. That has brought charges from the Democratic side of the aisle that the GOP is reneging on that contentious deal for the sake of party unity.
That decision could haunt Republicans in the form a new clash over spending with Senate Democrats at the height of the election season in September. But for now it means Republicans expect only a handful of defections when the GOP budget faces a key floor vote this week.