Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Capitol Hill in April. (Alex Wong/GETTY IMAGES)

Paul Ryan wasn’t on the ballot in the western New York special election that his party lost on Tuesday. But he might as well have been.

Democrats and their aligned groups hammered state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R) for her support of the Wisconsin Republican’s budget proposal — a plan that includes a wholesale reshaping of Medicare.

While even GOP strategists acknowledged that the Medicare proposal played a large role in Corwin’s loss to Democrat Kathy Hochul (for the U.S. House seat vacated by Republican Chris Lee), Ryan was adamant that the vote did not amount to a negative judgment on the plan.

“If you can scare seniors into thinking that their current benefits are being affected, that’s going to have an effect,” Ryan said in the aftermath of Corwin’s loss. “And that is exactly what took place here.”

Less than 24 hours later, however, the Ryan budget came up for a vote in the Senate — thanks to Democrats hoping to score back-to-back political blows against it. That put 40 Republicans on the record as supporting Ryan’s plan. Moderates such as Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) jumped ship.

Republican presidential candidates spent the week saying nice things about the Ryan plan — without actually endorsing it. When asked Thursday about the Ryan budget, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty said that he would have a plan of his own, but he added that if, as president, he had to choose between signing the Ryan plan and not, he would sign it. Um, ok.

Somewhere, Newt Gingrich, who got slammed by conservatives two weeks ago for criticizing the Ryan plan, is smiling.

Meanwhile, Democratic strategists can barely contain their glee that Republicans have handed them such a golden goose of a political issue barely six months after the GOP retook control of the House.

Paul Ryan, for ensuring that you will be a Democratic whipping boy all the way until Nov. 6, 2012 — 527 days, if you’re counting — you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

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By Chris Cillizza