Anyone with half a brain could have seen this coming. Not long before a major election cycle kicks into high gear, the Republicans propose a plan to gut a federal program that, frankly, a lot of people like. The people who really like it happen to be older Americans, who also happen to be the ones that show up in large numbers to vote. And to top it off, the plan is so poorly thought-out, and so obviously a transfer of wealth to the rich (really, Paul, did you have to include more tax cuts for the wealthy in a plan apparently designed to impoverish the middle class?), that even the Democrats, whose inability to undertake effective political messaging is nearly legendary, have been able to pick up the ball and run with it.
Well, surprise surprise.
House Republicans signaled Thursday that they were backing away from the centerpiece of their budget plan — a proposal to overhaul Medicare….
Coupled with remarks by other House Republican leaders, [House Ways & Means Chair Dave Camp]’s statement suggested that the party’s Medicare proposal had been shelved, even though the party’s lawmakers had taken a risky vote to pass the budget in the House just last month, and in the past two weeks had attempted to sell it to constituents in often-stormy town hall meetings….
While [House majority leader Eric] Cantor outlined the House-passed Ryan budget as Republicans’ opening bid in the Blair House negotiations [with the Obama administration], he said little about the Medicare proposals, participants said.
“He didn’t need to talk about it in that room,” said one participant. “Everyone knows it’s dead.”
Hilarious. And, as I said, totally predictable. And we may see some of the fallout from the Ryan debacle sooner than 2012. The NYT today reports on a special election near Buffalo, NY that would normally be an easy win for the GOP, but is turning out to be much closer than expected, due almost entirely to the fact that the more people learn about what the House Republicans voted for in backing Ryan’s plan, the more they hate it.
After leveling a barrage of attacks against the proposal put forth by Mr. Ryan, the Democratic candidate, Kathy Hochul, has tightened the race considerably, even as her Republican opponent remained supportive of the plan, perhaps out of concern that distancing herself from it would alienate conservatives….
[T]he May 24 special election is suddenly shaping up as the first electoral test of the Republican agenda — and of the likely themes in the battle next year between both major parties for control of the House.
“The Republican vote to end Medicare has moved the needle in this race,” said Representative Steve Israel of Long Island, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “The Republican should be running away with this. Instead, she is clinging to a minuscule lead.”
Really, the GOP has put itself in an unbelievably bad position. House Republicans voted almost unanimously for Ryan’s plan. Now, belatedly realizing that Americans actually hate this plan, they are backing away. But of course, it’s too late – they’re on record, and claiming to be against it even though the vote shows they were for it is a tough act to pull off. Yet now that they are backing off, they can’t vigorously defend their vote. So they have effectively deprived themselves of any good options going into the 2012 cycle.
Keep an eye on this Buffalo race – it may be an interesting harbinger of things to come. If the Democratic candidate even comes close in that (once) solid GOP district, that will tell us a lot about effective messaging next year.