Republicans continue to assert that the selection of Paul Ryan as Veep candidate — and the argument over Medicare it has triggered — is good politically for them, even in down-ticket races. They say they can win the Medicare war by pressing the claim that Obama has “raided” Medicare to pay for his health care law — converting this fight into another battle over the hated Obamacare.
Here’s one way to look at this claim. How are Republican candidates in closely contested House races handling the Ryan plan? Most House Republican incumbents, of course, are already on record voting for it. But how are House candidates reacting to it?
Dems point out that as least five GOP candidates have either come out against — or refused to take a position on — Ryan’s proposal:
* Chris Collins, the GOP candidate taking on Rep. Kathy Hochul in New York’s 27th district, has refused to take a position on the plan. This is key because Hochul’s win in a special election last year was largely driven by the battle over Ryan’s plan.
* Tony Strickland, the GOP candidate in California’s 26th district, has said that he would have voted No on the Ryan plan, claining Ryan’s quasi-voucher idea would pull the “rug” out from under some soon-to-be-seniors.
* Brendan Doherty, the GOP candidate for Rhode Island’s first district, put out a statement after the Ryan announcement claiming he does not agree with Ryan’s Medicare proposals.
* Maggie Brooks, the GOP candidate against Dem Rep. Louise Slaughter in the Democratic 25th district in New York, says she does not support Ryan’s Medicare proposals.
* Richard Tiesi, an openly gay Republican who is taking on Dem Rep John Tierney in Masachusetts, was only willing to say that Ryan’s plan is a “good starting point for discussion,” and has taken care to point out that he doesn’t agree with Ryan on “every single issue.”
Recently, after Tiesi said that about Ryan, Buzzfeed’s Chris Geidner asked whether he was “a moderate outlier” or a “canary in the coal mine.” It’s too early to say for sure. But having five GOP candidates keeping the party’s Vice Presidential candidate at arm’s length seems like it certainly could be a sign of something.
Bolstering this possibility, former NRCC chair Tom Reynolds recently gave voice to anxiety in GOP circles over the Ryan pick by comparing this cycle to George W. Bush’s drive to privatize Social Security, which was thought to have cost the GOP seats in 2006. “You saw what happened to Bush with Social Security in the 2006 election,” Reynolds said. “This is déjà vu.”
At any rate, if a divide is developing between House GOP incumbents and GOP candidates over the Ryan plan, it’ll be a telling dynamic to watch.