At the meeting between House Republicans and President Obama, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) again demonstrated that he is the head of his party, and the most effective combatant to go up against Obama in 2012. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, got a standing ovation from his colleagues during the meeting.

“Hey, I’m that Ryan guy,” Ryan said at the start of his remarks at the meeting, according to a Republican aide.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) told reporters after the meeting that Ryan told Obama “we’re not going to make progress on reforming Medicare unless we cut through the demagoguery on the issue.”

In reply, Obama “spelled out his differences and responded with the thought that if everyone would follow that, certainly he would,” Goodlatte added. “Paul’s point was that as president of the United States, he can take the lead in cutting through that and having a serious discussion.”

In the post-meeting news conference, Ryan showed his deft touch, declining to go right at the president:

Ryan was asked if he had told Obama that he hadn’t shown leadership on budget issues.

“That’s not exactly what I said,” he responded. “I said we’ve got to take on this debt and if we demagogue each other at the leadership level, then we’re never going to take on our debt.”

Ryan went on to say that Obama has “mischaracterized” his Medicare plan when talking publicly about it. So he said he explained to Obama how the plan works, in the hopes that “in the future he won’t mischaracterize it.”

“I simply explained what our plan is, how it works,” Ryan said, standing before a bank of cameras outside the White House. “It’s been misdescribed by the president and many others. So we simply described to him what it is we’ve been proposing so that he hears from us how our proposal works.”

Did Obama agree that the Republican Medicare proposal is not a voucher plan?

“He didn’t mention one way or the other,” Ryan said.

In other words, Obama, when presented with the facts, is hard pressed to repeat his demagogic talking points because he knows Ryan is fully capable of calling him on it. The president refuses to give up the fiction that Ryan’s plan is a voucher system when in fact the money doesn’t go to Medicare recipients. One supposes that ignoring reality will be a mainstay of the Obama reelection campaign.

The GOP presidential contenders should be on notice. Unless they have a precise grasp of the president’s plan (handing Medicare over to an unelected 15-member board to curb care) and an alternative plan they can spell out in detail, they’re in for a rough time. Come to think of it, does anyone but Ryan currently meet that description?