So here’s the contrast we’ll see in 2014. House Republicans are preparing to try to pass another Paul Ryan budget as a blueprint for their campaigns. Senate Dems will counter by trying to pass the minimum wage hike, and campaigning on that and other policies as their 2014 blueprint.

Of course, a real Congressional debate over raising the minimum wage is probably impossible, given GOP control of the House.

In that context, AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka has an idea: How about a high profile debate over the minimum wage outside of Congress, one that puts the broader ideological contrast at the heart of the issue on display before the country?

Trumka has sent a letter to tea party chieftain Jim DeMint — who also heads the Heritage Foundation — inviting him to debate the minimum wage in a time and place of DeMint’s choosing. DeMint was selected because he is one of the most prominent tea partyers in the country and has favored doing away with the federal minimum wage entirely.

“On behalf of the twelve and a half million men and women of the AFL-CIO, I would like to invite you to join me to participate in a public forum on the minimum wage,” Trumka writes in the letter. “It is clear that the AFL-CIO and the Heritage Foundation have starkly contrasting opinions on this crucial issue. I think that the public would find an in-depth conversation between the two of us to be illuminating about what is at stake for our nation.”

But according to Josh Goldstein, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO, DeMint’s office has said he doesn’t have the time to do the debate. Goldstein adds that the AFL-CIO told DeMint’s staff that Trumka would be happy to do this wherever and whenever DeMint wants to, but to no avail. Now the AFL-CIO will seek to draw attention to DeMint’s unwillingness to debate, with a new Facebook page and other social media, as a way of making the broader point that even those who are most ideologically committed to opposing the federal minimum wage know it is a very hard position to defend.

The larger context here is that the House GOP may not even allow a vote on a minimum wage hike, should it clear the Senate when it is voted on next month (which is itself uncertain, because Senate Republicans are expected to filibuster it). And at bottom, this is an issue that really underscores that the agenda of the Congressional GOP is far more reflective of the economic worldview of tea party Republicans such as DeMint than it is of the worldview of non-tea party Republicans. Recent polls have shown that only tea party Republicans oppose the minimum wage hike, while non-tea party Republicans actually are in line with majorities of the American people, and support it. But the latter’s priorities just aren’t reflected to anywhere near the same degree by the Congressional GOP.

* GOP TO DOUBLE DOWN ON RYAN FISCAL BLUEPRINT: Meanwhile, even as Republicans prepare to sink the minimum wage hike, the Wall Street Journal reports that House Republicans will introduce a budget in coming weeks that sticks to the recent sequester replacement compromise’s spending levels for 2015 but still seeks to balance the budget in 10 years. Note this:

As it did last year, the budget would likely assume a repeal of the 2010 health law and allow the GOP to say it has a plan to balance the budget in the next decade, both core principles for the midterms. The strategy isn’t without political risk. This spring’s House GOP budget would have to propose spending cuts deeper than the previous blueprint, to make up for a gloomier economic forecast from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Ryan’s previous budgets already included extremely draconian cuts to programs for low income Americans; now, since there’s no chance Republicans will agree to new revenues, the cuts would presumably have to be even deeper, even as Republicans are trying to demonstrate newfound concern over poverty.

* BUT ERIC CANTOR IS SOFTENING GOP’S IMAGE: Related to the above: Robert Costa has an interesting look at how Eric Cantor is trying to push the House GOP caucus to adopt more centrist positions on various issues, from cancer research to fighting poverty. Key:

He has maneuvered behind the scenes to push House Republicans toward an eventual floor vote on a plan to legalize certain illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

Keep in mind, this would only be a vote on the DREAMers. There’s still no vote in sight on any GOP plan to do anything about the 11 million. Yet even this is held up as evidence of a “softening” effort. And of course the House GOP continues to oppose both the minimum wage hike and the latest Senate compromise to extend unemployment benefits.

* NATE SILVER: GOP SLIGHTLY FAVORED TO RETAKE SENATE: Nate Silver’s latest Senate race rankings are out, and he finds Republicans slightly favored to win the Senate majority this fall. He points to many familiar factors: the national environment favoring Republicans and a map on which Dems are widely on defense because of their unusually strong performance in 2008. Here’s the crux:

Republicans have great opportunities in a number of states, but only in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana and Arkansas do we rate the races as clearly leaning their way. Republicans will also have to win at least two toss-up races, perhaps in Alaska, North Carolina or Michigan, or to convert states such as New Hampshire into that category. And they’ll have to avoid taking losses of their own in Georgia and Kentucky, where the fundamentals favor them but recent polls show extremely competitive races.

Giving Republicans four seats right up front, either they will have to win two out of three remaining red state battlegrounds, or, if they seriously put states outside the core red seven in play, they’ll have to win two out of many more. Of course, a surprise Dem pickup in Georgia or Kentucky makes the road to a majority steeper.

* BUT SEVEN MONTHS REMAIN UNTIL ELECTION DAY: Also note this cautionary note from Silver:

There are still more than seven months for news events to intervene and affect the national climate. There are 10 races that each party has at least a 25 percent chance of winning, according to our ratings. If Republicans were to win all of them, they would gain a net of 11 seats from Democrats, which would give them a 56-44 majority in the new Senate. If Democrats were to sweep, they would lose a net of just one seat and hold a 54-46 majority. So our forecast might be thought of as a Republican gain of six seats — plus or minus five. The balance has shifted slightly toward the GOP. But it wouldn’t take much for it to revert to the Democrats, nor for this year to develop into a Republican rout along the lines of 2010.

Plus the coming GOP primaries will decide whether Dems are facing quality establishment-preferred GOP candidates or tea party Republicans who could fumble winnable races (though this is factored into Silver’s model). Bottom line: Certainly the fundamentals for are very bad for Dems, but there’s a long, long way to go.

* DEMS HIT BACK AT SILVER: The DSCC is out with a new memo strongly disputing Silver’s findings, citing the fact that Silver gave very slim odds to four Dems who won in 2012 and 2010, noting:

“All four are senators today because they were superior candidates running superior campaign organizations who made their elections a choice between the two candidates on the ballot…We don’t minimize the challenges ahead…Rather, we view the latest projection as a reminder that we have a challenging map and important work still to do in order to preserve our majority.”

The key here is that Dems recognize the need to offset the national environment — and Obama’s unpopularity — by turning these races into choices between two candidates and building huge turnout operations to compensate for the “midterm drop-off” turnout problem Dems face among core voter groups.

* WATCH THE NORTH CAROLINA GOP SENATE PRIMARY: Bloomberg reports that Republicans in Washington are becoming increasingly “unnerved” by the ongoing GOP primary battle between establishment favorite Thom Tillis and tea partyer Greg Brannon. It looks like a runoff is increasingly likely, which could mean national conservative groups could get involved for the tea partyer in the runoff.

What’s more, it would also mean the GOP’s nominee won’t be decided until July and could be left in a weakened state in a general election that may be central to GOP hopes for a majority.

In 1979 the top 1 percent of households accounted for 17 percent of business income; by 2007 the same group was getting 43 percent of business income, and 75 percent of capital gains. Yet this small elite gets all of the G.O.P.’s love, and most of its policy attention.
Why is this happening? Well, bear in mind that both Koch brothers are numbered among the 10 wealthiest Americans, and so are four Walmart heirs. Great wealth buys great political influence — and not just through campaign contributions. Many conservatives live inside an intellectual bubble of think tanks and captive media that is ultimately financed by a handful of megadonors. Not surprisingly, those inside the bubble tend to assume, instinctively, that what is good for oligarchs is good for America.

This is what the Dem attacks on the Koch brothers are meant to dramatize. Also see E.J. Dionne on how the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity’s attacks on Obamacare are really about turning Americans against the great social insurance achievements of Democrats in the 20th Century.

What else?