* Paul Ryan heckled by angry protestors: This will generate a lot of chatter today: According to WTMJ in Wisconsin, Ryan himself got a real earful at a town hall meeting from protestors who are furious over his proposal to end Medicare as we know it.

Seniors held up signs saying “hands off my Medicare,” and chanted that Ryan should “stop lying,” according to the report. Also note that Ryan was forced to leave in a different vehicle than he arrived in.

* The Beltway deficit feedback loop: For the longest time, polls indicated that the deficit ranked low on the list of voter concerns, showing public opinion to be strikingly out of sync with official Washington’s prioritizing of the deficit over job creation.

But this morning brings a new poll from the Washington Post and Pew Research that finds a whopping 81 percent now think the deficit is a major problem that should be dealt with now, rather than when the economy improves. Tellingly, that number has jumped even among Democrats.

When you have leading officials in both parties — starting with all Republicans and a handful of moderate Dems — acting as if reining in the deficit is so urgent that it requires more attention than creating jobs, people start to tell pollsters they agree. This helps create a climate in which Dems lose any incentive to make the case for more government spending to prime the recovery, which begins to vanish from the conversation.

Meanwhile, the other side continues to hammer away at reining in spending as the way to resuscitate the economy. Dems, anxious that Republicans will be seen as the only ones proposing solutions, nod in agreement and pick a fight over how much we should cut. The public hears an ever growing chorus of bipartisan agreement that the deficits and spending are our number one problem. The case that government can create jobs continues to fade. And so on...and so on...

* Town hall backlash over GOP and Medicare becoming a national story: Voter anger over the GOP’s Medicare plan gets major front page treatment in The New York Times, which notes that “Republicans in multiple districts appear to be increasingly on the defensive, facing worried and angry questions from voters and a barrage of new attacks from Democrats and their allies.”

While we’re not seeing anything rivaling the Tea Party yet, the effort by Dems and their outside allies to stoke voter anger in GOP districts while Congress is home for recess appears to be paying off. At a minimum, it is establishing the national narrative Dems were hoping for.

* Republicans grapple with strategy to handle Medicare backlash: On a private conference call, Paul Ryan suggested to nervous rank-and-file House GOPers that they respond to angry constituents this way:

When pressed for advice for how to handle town halls and potential challenges on the budget, Budget Chairman Paul Ryan argued that Republicans need to front-load their presentations with assurances that coverage will not change for people older than 55, then argue that the proposal is crucial “to make sure this important safety net is around for future generations,” the aide said.

* Obama administration preparing for debt ceiling armageddon: Tim Geithner is quietly taking behind the scenes steps to prepare for a failure to raise the debt ceiling. Read that either as brinkmanship on the part of the administration — putting the GOP on notice that their holding out on the issue could take us over the edge — or as genuine pessimism at this point that a deal can be reached.

* GOP debt ceiling brinkmanship continues: House Republicans maintain a disciplined, united front, leaking behind the scenes details of their own designed to show that GOPers won’t budge on their insistence on major spending cuts in exchange for a debt ceiling hike.

* Your guide to who’s who in the 2012 presidential race: You should definitely check out Who Runs Gov’s very useful guide to the behind-the-scenes players in the 2012 campaign, which includes profiles of party strategists, key operatives, leaders of interests groups and candidates.

Any time you come across the name of someone who’s involved in the presidential race — in any capacity — and you want to catch up on who that person is and everything you need to know about that person, this is a good way to do it. Take a look.

* The underappreciated House progressive caucus budget: Dean Baker’s turn: What if the only fiscally responsible and serious budget is the one that nobody is talking about?

* Could Afghan war imperil Obama’s reelection?Katrina Vanden Heuvel suggests, interestingly, that the rising unpopularity of the Afghan conflict could interfere with Obama’s effort to win back independents, who supported Obama in 2008 partly because of his promise to pull out of Iraq.

* Reporters keeping the birther issue alive: Again: Why are reporters wasting our time by asking the White House to respond to Donald Trump’s birther nonsense? The man is not even a candidate yet. This is just crazy.

* But maybe he’s running after all: A prominent GOP pollster says he met with Trump to discuss his presidential ambitions and came away convinced he’s “serious” about running. So maybe it’s on!

What else is happening?

UPDATE: I should have noted that the people who heckled Ryan were protestors. I’ve edited the above to reflect that.