So much for budget and Medicare reform. On Saturday, New York Times congressional correspondent Jonathan Weisman sounded pretty confident that Paul Ryan's budget plan would sink Republican prospects in Congress in November, forwarding confident-sounding Democrats set to bash Ryan's proposals, even naming individual races, in "Ryan's Budget Proposal Is Pitting G.O.P. Troops Against Top of the Ticket ." The text box: "A big deal for Romney-Ryan is shunned by the rank and file."
Even as Mitt Romney and Representative Paul D. Ryan exhort Republicans to embrace their proposed Medicare changes and spending cuts, the party’s rank and file is growing less enthusiastic about the fight than the top of the ticket.
Republican lawmakers and candidates are distancing themselves from the Ryan budget plan, which helped make the proposed changes a national issue. Republicans say the party now belongs to the more senior -- and historically more malleable -- member of the ticket, Mr. Romney, and not Mr. Ryan, the younger conservative firebrand who has become the subject of repeated Democratic criticism.
Yet even Mr. Ryan chose to criticize Mr. Obama’s Medicare cuts in his speech instead of describing his own plan.
The change in tone will disappoint conservatives like the anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who has said that the job of a Republican president is to sign the laws passed by a Republican Congress. Those laws were supposed to be dictated by Mr. Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity,” the budget approved this year by the House, which was seen by conservatives not as a starting point for negotiations but as marching orders.
Such certitude is giving way to political reality. Democrats have made the Ryan plan’s Medicare prescriptions their No. 1 issue in the battle for the House and Senate. Even Republicans conceded the attacks are taking a toll.
One Republican political consultant working on House and Senate races admitted “the Ryan budget is well under water,” hurting Republican House candidates in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and Virginia, as well as Representative Rick Berg of North Dakota, once considered a shoo-in for the Senate. Republicans can effectively counter the Medicare attacks by going after Democrats on the president’s health care law, the consultant said, but every moment tussling over health care is a diversion from the issue that Republicans say can win the race -- the economy.
Democrats are happy to concur. “We left for recess in a fairly neutral environment, where nearly a month later, we have a good stiff wind at our backs,” said Representative Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “That wind is mostly propelled by Paul Ryan and his budget.”
Of course, Barack Obama's own budget was unanimously voted down in Congress this summer.
Democrats are pointing to a number of recent polls, conducted by Democratic firms and suggesting that their candidates are gaining ground. On Friday, the House Majority PAC released a poll in a Minnesota race, showing that the Democratic challenger, Nick Nolan, was essentially tied with Representative Chip Cravaack, a freshman Republican.
We'll see how the specifics helpfully laid out by the Democrats (through the New York Times) pan out come November.