Republicans concerned Ryan as VP could cost party House and Senate seats

by Cameron Joseph and Alexandra Jaffe
08/13/12


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Strategists worry Ryan's elevation allows Dems to successfully make his budget plan an issue in congressional races.

Republicans strategists are worried that Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) addition to the presidential ticket will cost their party House and Senate seats this fall.

Their concern: Democrats will successfully demonize Ryan’s budget plan, which contains controversial spending cuts and changes to Medicare.

“There are a lot races that are close to the line we're not going to win now because they're going to battle out who's going to kill grandma first, ObamaCare or Paul Ryan's budget,” said one Republican strategist who works on congressional races. “It could put the Senate out of reach. In the House it puts a bunch of races in play that would have otherwise been safe. ... It remains to be seen how much damage this causes, but my first blush is this is not good.”

Many Republicans in tough races this year, especially in the House, voted for Ryan’s proposal, which makes it hard for them to distance themselves from it.

And while Republicans are expected to keep the House, the more seats they lose, the closer the Democrats will be to a takeover in 2014.  The Senate is too close to call; the GOP only needs to gain four seats (if President Obama wins reelection) to take control.

 

A number of senior Republican House and Senate strategists, speaking anonymously so they could be candid about their party’s vice presidential pick, acknowledged Ryan was good for presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney but expressed concern about his effect on congressional races.

 

While few Republicans said having Ryan on the ticket would help them, they argued they can neutralize the budget issue by attacking Democrats for cutting $700 billion from Medicare in their healthcare reform law.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) circulated a memo to lawmakers and candidates on Monday, obtained by The Hill, that they say offers a road map for winning the debate over Ryan’s proposal.

It calls for candidates to follow the model the party used to win an open seat in Nevada last summer in which now-Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) hammered his Democratic opponent on the spending cuts.

 

The main focus of such a strategy, according to a slideshow and video circulated by NRCC Political Director Mike Shields, is to stay on the offense and tie Democrats to Obama’s healthcare law, an argument Republicans believe they can win.

The presentation tells candidates to fight back on Medicare until the issue becomes a tie then refocus the debate on the economy. To do so, Republicans are advised to tie their opponent unequivocally to Obama’s law, highlight the law’s cuts to Medicare and offer counter-messaging that uses credible outside spokespeople — like seniors, or, in Amodei’s case, his mother — to convince seniors that Republicans are in the right on the issue.

 

Publicly, the NRCC remains bullish on the issue.

 

“House Republicans are ready for this fight,” Shields said in a statement to reporters. “With Paul Ryan as his running mate, Governor Romney has made a statement to the American people — it’s time to get our debt under control and offer job creators the solutions that will restore American prosperity and protect the free enterprise system. But first, we owe it to the American people to hold Democrats accountable for gutting Medicare and using it to build their government takeover of healthcare.”

 

Former Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), who chaired the NRCC from 2003-2006, warned that he foresaw in this election shades of President George W. Bush’s fight to create a voucher program for Social Security early in his second term, which many say cost the GOP seats in 2006.

 

“You saw what happened to Bush with Social Security in the 2006 election,” he said. “This is déjà vu.”

 

Reynolds predicted the “media frenzy” over Ryan would die down soon and that ongoing economic struggles of voters would play a much larger...


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