* The Ryan rollout begins: All of a sudden, GOP Rep. Paul Ryan and his proposals to remake Medicare and Medicaid as we know them — to be unveiled by House Republicans today — are everywhere. He has an Op ed in the Wall Street Journal this morning arguing that our “path to prosperity” is to cut “trillions,” adding: “The threat posed by our monumental debt will damage our country in profound ways, unless we act.”

Ryan is also rolling out a new Web video that repeats the “path to prosperity” tag line and features him looking very earnest and professorial as he says somberly: “The only solutions will be truly painful for us all...we face a crushing burden of debt which will take down our economy.”

There’s a lot to say about Ryan’s rollout, but the immediate point to be made is that the optics of it have been carefully thought through and are very slickly done. Ryan’s sales pitch will rely on repetition of the phrase “path to prosperity,” on persuading the public that these proposals spread the pain around to everyone, and on creating a profound sense of crisis as a means to selling the public on ideas that are deeply unpopular and ideologically far out of the mainstream.

Indeed, recall that John Boehner recently spelled out this strategy in an interview, acknowledging that “entitlement” cuts will be unpopular, and that the way to sell them to the public will be to get Americans to “understand how big the problem is.” That’s the key gambit at the heart of Ryan’s rollout.

* Big election today in Wisconsin: With voters set to choose today between incumbent conservative state Supreme Court judge David Prosser and liberal challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America are pumping a new robocall into the homes of Wisconsinites that features Dem state senator Chris Larson, one of the fugitive Dems and a rising star in national progressive circles. “Whoever wins this election will decide the legality of Scott Walker’s recent anti-worker bill,” Larson says.

Labor and the left badly want a win today, because it will give another burst of momentum to the drive to recall Wisconsin Republicans and will signal that the grassroots energy unleashed by Walker’s overreach is still in force.

* Government shutdown looms: The sticking point right now in negotiations is that Dems are willing to agree to $33 billion in cuts, but want some of them to be temporary ones coming not from federal agencies, but from Pell grants and agriculture subsidies. Republicans are rejecting this proposal and demanding that all cuts be made permanent.

Also: In another effort to ratchet up pressure on Dems, House GOPers are proposing a temporary stopgap funding the government, but one that contains $12 billion in cuts across federal agencies.

Key takeaway: Speaker John Boehner’s best hope of winning over conservatives to support an eventual compromise is to make it clear that he pushed us as close to the brink of a shutdown as humanly possible, in order to extract maximum spending concessions from Dems.

* Has Obama cornered Republicans in the budget fight? Important read from Michael Gerson on how Obama and Dems, by agreeing to $33 billion in cuts, have occupied the reasonable middle ground, exploited the division in the GOP caucus, and forced Boehner to lurch towards a shutdown to keep the base happy.

* GOP strategists worried about spending debate fallout: Republican strategists tell Charlie Cook that they are worried that a government shutdown and entitlement overreach could cost Republicans the House and persuade aging whites to defect to Dems — and note that the problem is that the base won’t let GOP leaders do otherwise.

* Obama’s strategy for keeping the grassroots engaged: On a conference call with supporters, Obama acknowledges that two years of fights in Washington have tarnished his brand and led to some unsightly compromises, but insists that underneath it all, the spirit of 2008 remains.

* Why Dems are more prone to compromise than Republicans: Jonathan Chait on the structural imbalances between the parties and why they make the GOP more inclined to serve the base while Dems rely more on the support of their party’s moderates.

* The punditocracy will hail Paul Ryan as “serious”: It is inevitable that the Beltway punditocracy will widely hail Paul Ryan’s proposals as “serious,” “gutsy,” and above all, “courageous.”

Indeed, you can expect that even some Democrats will agree that Ryan is being “courageous.”

* GOP gubernatorial anti-labor overreach of the day: Maine governor Paul LePage’s removal of a labor history mural not only antagonized labor, but now it may even cost Maine taxpayers $60,000. Targeting unions is such shrewd fiscal policy!

* And the labor history lesson of the day: It is apparently very difficult for some right-wingers to accept that Martin Luther King was in Memphis that day to support striking sanitation workers.

What else is happening?