How convinced are Democrats that Republicans have handed them a winner with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare?

Convinced enough that the Ryan proposal made an appearance Thursday in an e-mailed appeal from the Democratic Party of Virginia, seeking donations for Democratic candidates for the state legislature in November.

Never mind that the Virginia General Assembly will have very little say over Congress’ debate over Medicare spending. The e-mail from party Executive Director Dave Mills argues that Virginia Democrats can use the state elections to send a message about Republican overreach — to “send Republicans a message they’ll remember.”

“Bob McDonnell’s raid on public education to pay for roads. Ken Cuccinelli’s litigious war on health reform and clean air and water. Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as we know it. The list of the ways in which Republicans are abusing the power they were given goes on and on,” Mills writes. “It’s time to make it stop.”

It may be smart politics — after all, unhappiness with Ryan’s proposal is being credited with helping Democrats win a deep red New York House seat that had been held for decades by Republicans.

It’s also something of a turnabout on Virginia Republicans, who worked overtime and successfully in 2009 to tie Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds (D) to policy proposals by Democrats in Washington that were equally distant from the state job he sought. They too argued that voters should use the state race to “send a message” to Washington.

But will voters choosing a candidate for the state Senate think about Paul Ryan while standing in the voting booth? Check back in November.