Outside allies of the White House are ratcheting up efforts to drive home the fact that the bite of the sequester is genuinely beginning to sink in around the country. And they are ramping up messaging on a mostly overlooked aspect of the sequester battle: The fact that Congressional Republicans have near-unanimously supported a fiscal blueprint that would cut spending far more deeply than the sequester. I’m talking about the Paul Ryan budget.
The American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, a c4 allied with the White House, has created a Web site called “C-Quest,” which is a play on “C-Span” and is all about the sequester. The Web site is designed to focus attention on how the sequester is impacting actual communities around the country, as a corrective to the Beltway’s emphasis on the sequester as a political story, one that the White House has supposedly botched by over-hyping the sequester’s impact.
The Web site is also accompanied by a Web video that collects local news segments from around the country on the sequestration’s cuts, and makes the point that Paul Ryan’s budget cuts would dwarf those of the sequester:
This is yet another indication that Democrats see this battle as a long game. With mounting evidence that the cuts are beginning to be felt all over the country — evidence collected in an extensive Huffington Post piece the other day — White House allies are hoping to shift the attention of the political press to the experience of the sequester outside the Beltway.
The new American Bridge effort also represents a bet that being the party of austerity will be a loser over the long term. Hence the effort to draw more attention to the fact that the Ryan budget would cut spending far more deeply than the sequester would. Republicans have worked hard to convert the Ryan budget from a political negative into a positive by focusing on the general fact that it purports to balance the budget in 10 years, which polls well, while de-emphasizing how the Ryan budget would actually accomplish this, which doesn’t poll well at all. The restructuring of Medicare at the heart of the plan is already unpopular; the plan would likely be more unpopular still if it were more broadly understood just how dramatically government would have to be rolled back to make Ryan’s stated policy goal a reality.
The political question over time will be whether the sequester will dramatize the reality of spending cuts sufficiently to make being the party of long-term austerity an untenable position, forcing Republicans back to the table to deal.