“The best defense on Medicare is a good offense,” he said. “And Paul Ryan gives us the ability to play offense.”
And on Friday, the National Republican Congressional Committee launched an offensive, releasing a new ad titled “Mediscare” that targeted Rep. Mark S. Critz (D-Pa.).
The race is on now as each side tries to define the Ryan proposal in order to reap some political advantage with voters.
Duckworth’s opponent is GOP incumbent Rep. Joe Walsh, who echoed Boehner’s line Thursday. “I’m not defending Ryan’s plan, I’m staying on offense,” he said in an interview. “Tammy Duckworth and Democrats are going to run around scaring seniors, and I don’t think it’s going to work. I think America is ready to grow up.”
Nobody asked Walsh about Ryan’s plan when he met with supporters Thursday night at a barbecue restaurant 10 minutes from where Duckworth spoke. But afterward, retired flight attendant Pat Fedorski, 68, said she was proud of Romney’s selection of Ryan.
“The left likes to call our Republican vice presidents stupid,” she said. “They said George Bush was stupid, Dan Quayle was stupid. You can’t call Paul Ryan stupid. He’s brilliant, and he knows the budget.”
Fedorski said Democrats may attack Republicans for wanting to reshape Medicare, but “the big fat elephant in the room is that Medicare can’t be sustained — everyone knows it. Paul Ryan has the guts to say it.”
Some Republican candidates and strategists, worried about polling data on the popularity of Ryan-like Medicare changes, are working to distance themselves from the House budget chairman, however.
In a conservative district in western New York where Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) won a special election last year that was widely seen as a referendum on Ryan’s budget, an adviser to Republican challenger Chris Collins told a television station he does not support Ryan’s budget cuts. Brendan Doherty, a Republican running in moderate Rhode Island, has said the same, as has Maggie Brooks, a Republican running in Upstate New York.
Christie Vilsack, a Democrat who is challenging Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), said she first raised questions about Ryan’s budget plan when she launched her campaign last year.
“Seniors want to make sure we follow up on our promise,” Vilsack said Monday at the Iowa State Fair. “We made a promise to them when they worked hard their whole lives that they would have Social Security, that Medicare would take care of them, that they would be able to enter a nursing facility.
“So we need to make sure we do that.”
In response, King said Ryan’s plan won’t affect current beneficiaries, meaning Vilsack and other Democrats mislead voters when they say that Republicans want to “end Medicare as we know it.”
“That phrase — ‘as we know it’ — will become very well known as the classic weasel phrase,” King said during an appearance Monday at the fair. “If you change my hairdo — if you pull one hair out of my head — you have changed my hairdo ‘as we know it.’ ”
But at the senior home in Bloomingdale where Duckworth spoke Thursday, the attack line resonated.
Asked what she knew about Ryan’s plans to overhaul the program, Tess Castell, 76, said, “Essentially, it’s a revamping of Medicare as we know it.
“Beyond that, I don’t know a great deal.”
Helderman reported from Washington. Felicia Sonmez in Oxford, Ohio, contributed to this report.