The Rise (And Fall?) Of Paul Ryan (The Note)

May 25, 2011 8:59am


For weeks now conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer has been saying that fellow Republicans shouldn’t just urge Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., to jump into the race for president, they shouldrustle up a posse” to draft him into service.

After last night’s special election results in New York State in which Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated GOP candidate Jane Corwin in what was seen nationally as a referendum on Ryan’s budget and Medicare overhaul proposal, it’s hard to believe that Ryan will be pursued with the same zeal.

Then again, Republicans appear to be divided into three camps on Ryan and his plan even after the GOP’s loss in New York’s 26th Congressional district.

The first camp: “Don’t Retreat, Reload”: Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., is a good example. He said on ABC’s “Top Line” yesterday, “I do think it would be a mistake for the Republican Party to all of a sudden backwalk against our own budget resolution — sometimes called the Ryan budget — but it’s a Republican House budget: the path to prosperity. The truth of the matter is, quite simply, if we don’t do anything about Medicare as we know it as it is, it will be gone in 2024. So I think the irresponsible thing is what President Obama is doing — is proposing a budget that doesn’t mention anything about Medicare or Social Security.”

When asked whether Americans were ready to hear that kind of tough, take-your-medicine message, Gingrey responded, “People have to hear it.”

The second camp: “We Shall Overcome”: Yes, the repercussions of the Ryan plan are an issue for Republicans, and one they need to take seriously, but also one they can deal with. One GOP strategist emphasized that we’re still a year-and-a-half away from the 2012 election, and it’s possible there’ll be bigger things on the table next year. Is Ryan’s budget equivalent to Democrats’ “Obamacare” vote? “Don’t know”, the strategist said. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t think that it could matter, just that it’s too soon to tell.

Steven Law, president and CEO of American Crossroads, which invested in the race, sent out a telling statement last night: “The debate over whether Medicare mattered more than a third-party candidate who split the Republican vote is mostly a partisan Rorschach Test,” Law said. “What is clear is that this election is a wake-up call for anyone who thinks that 2012 will be just like 2010. It’s going to be a tougher environment, Democrats will be more competitive, and we need to play at the top of our game to win big next year.”

The third camp: “It’s A Disaster For the GOP”:  Another Republican strategist said the following about how the Medicare issue plays in 2012: “It’s a complete loser for us.”

The three perspectives highlight how divided Republicans are right now on how to handle the Ryan plan. And what about Ryan himself? ABC’s Jonathan Karl has an exclusive interview with the Wisconsin Congressman today. Stay tuned to ABC and throughout the day for Ryan's reaction to last night's election.

As ABC polling analyst Gary Langer points out, all of this comes on a day when new numbers from a Kaiser Family Foundation poll show that "60 percent of people say they would prefer to keep Medicaid as it is, with the federal government guaranteeing coverage and setting minimum standards for benefits and eligibility. Thirty-five percent would rather change the program so that the federal government gives states a fixed amount of money and each state decides who to cover and what services to pay for.”

The poll also found that just “13 percent of Americans say they would support major reductions in Medicaid spending as part of Congress’ efforts to reduce the deficit, while 3 in 10 would support minor reductions and 53 percent want to see no reductions in Medicaid spending at all.”

BOTTOM LINE: Special elections, like polls, are snapshots in time. The results of last night’s election in New York State doesn't necessarily mean that Republicans lose in 2012, but for the time being, Medicare will remain a big problem for them and their response will help dictate their political fortunes on Election Day next year.


POLITICAL EARTHQUAKE IN BUFFALO. “Corwin's last-minute appeal to voters, and hundreds of thousands in dollars from outside conservative groups, did little to improve the assemblywoman's chances in the Republican-leaning district," ABC’s Huma Khan notes. "The race was initially considered a shoo-in for Corwin. … But Hochul made Ryan's Medicare plan, which would overhaul the program from the way it exists now, the key issue of her campaign. Hochul portrayed Corwin, a multimillionaire, as a Republican insider who would help end Medicare. … In a district where the elderly make up 15 percent to 20 percent of the population, the message carried weight.”

“Corwin's troubles, however, extended beyond Medicare. Republican insiders acknowledged that the multimillionaire assemblywoman was a weak candidate who didn't connect, even with GOP voters. A third party candidate and a poorly run campaign by Corwin also contributed to Hochul's win. Even though outside groups like American Crossroads jumped in to her rescue, it did little to appease voters. The $6 million race attracted money from around the country, on all fronts, including hundreds of thousands from the conservative group American Crossroads. Political bigwigs have also stepped in to endorse their candidates. House Speaker John Boehner made a personal appearance for Corwin at one of her fundraisers. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recorded a robocall for her. Hochul had nearly every major Democratic member of Congress rally for her, but probably the biggest name she snagged was former President Clinton, who recorded a call for her as well. His message, like her campaign, focused on Medicare.”

WHY SO STUNNING? ABC’s Jonathan Karl notes that the 26th District is one of the state’s most solidly Republican places. “How Republican?  This district, which  was voting Republican long before it sent Jack Kemp to Congress in 1970, voted overwhelmingly for Republican Carl Paladino in last year's governor's race. Paladino lost virtually everywhere else to Andrew Cuomo, capturing only 34 percent of the vote statewide.”

NOTED: @amyewalter: Other big winner(s) in #NY26. The Lapp household. Ali at House Maj. PAC and John w/ DCCC IE 


GREEN LIGHT FOR JOHN EDWARDS PROSECUTION. “The United States Department of Justice has green-lighted the prosecution of former presidential candidate John Edwards for alleged violations of campaign laws while he tried to cover up an extra-marital affair,” ABC’s James Hill reports. “A source close to the case said Edwards is aware that the government intends to seek an indictment and that the former senator from North Carolina is now considering his limited options. He could accept a plea bargain with prosecutors or face a potentially costly trial. Edwards has been the focus of a lengthy federal investigation focusing on hundreds of thousands of dollars allegedly provided by two wealthy supporters. The government will contend those were illegal donations that ultimately went to support and seclude his mistress, Rielle Hunter. … If the case were to proceed to trial, legal experts said, the government would have to prove that the intent of the donations was to cover-up the affair so that Edwards could continue his pursuit of the 2008 Democratic nomination for president. The government's case against Edwards is expected to rely heavily on Andrew Young, a former close aide to Edwards who falsely claimed paternity of Hunter's child three weeks before the Iowa caucuses.”


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.”  ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter interview Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz. Also on the program, Rep. Steve Israel, D-NY, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who will weigh in on the results of last night’s special election, among other things. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.



PALIN DOCUMENTARY A PRELUDE TO 2012? “Sarah Palin — movie star? It's a title the former Alaska governor may soon take on. Palin aide Tim Crawford confirmed to ABC News today that a documentary about Palin's governorship exists, and she ‘loves it,’” ABC’s Sheila Marikar writes. “The documentary, titled ‘The Undefeated,’ was first reported today by the blog Real Clear Politics. According to the site, after November's mid-term elections, Palin and aide Rebecca Mansour (the same aide whose incendiary Twitter messages were leaked via The Daily Caller today) hatched a plan to get conservative filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon to make a series of videos championing Palin's two-and-a-half years as governor of Alaska and dismissing questions about why she resigned from office in July 2009. Real Clear Politics reports that Bannon took ‘complete control’ of the project and put $1 million of his own money behind it. He ended up with a ‘two-hour-long, sweeping epic’ that will premiere in Iowa in June. The blog writes that Bannon paints Palin as a ‘Joan of Arc-like figure’ using news footage from Palin's political rise and original interviews with her colleagues … According to Real Clear Politics, Bannon screened the film for Palin and her husband last Wednesday in Arizona, where Palin is rumored to have bought a house.”

BIDEN’S $1 TRILLION GOAL. “Vice President Joe Biden set a goal of at least $1 trillion in budget cuts from negotiations with congressional leaders on the federal debt as talks yesterday turned to Medicare, a contentious issue that risks replicating a partisan divide on Capitol Hill,” Bloomberg’s Heidi Przybyla and Mike Dorning report. “Democrats in the meeting ruled out concessions on Medicare without Republican agreement to raise tax revenue, a step the party’s leaders so far have rejected, according to someone familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity. Biden underscored the issue in remarks to reporters afterward. ‘I made clear today that revenues have to be in the deal,’ Biden said, even as he expressed optimism about prospects for the talks. Negotiators are on a pace “to get above $1 trillion” in cuts for a “down payment on the process,” he said. … House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said he is ‘confident we can get to over $1 trillion in immediate cuts,’ though he told reporters that ‘tax increases cannot pass the House.’”

WIDE OPEN SPACES FOR GOP (IN FLORIDA). “All the signs indicate that the early presidential battleground of Florida is Mitt Romney territory. The former Massachusetts governor finished a strong second here in the 2008 Republican presidential primary. He would almost certainly have the money to compete on Florida’s costly television airwaves. And in a big state where the nation’s economic ills are magnified — more people are out of work, more homes are under foreclosure — a candidate running as a turnaround specialist could resonate,” the Washington Post’s Phil Rucker notes. “Yet by all accounts, the race to win Florida, probably the first big state on the 2012 primary calendar, is wide open. So it was that Tim Pawlenty touched down here after announcing his candidacy Monday in Iowa. In a 24-hour sweep through the Sunshine State, he raised money, expanded his Rolodex and won over some prominent GOP operatives who backed Romney or others in 2008 but are looking for a fresh face this time. … Unlike in the other early states, no candidate has particularly strong roots or an imposing network of support here. The Florida Republican Party will host a straw poll in September that could give a shot in the arm to a candidate who mobilizes grass-roots supporters. This is an opportunity for all the major candidates, but perhaps most for Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and former ambassador to China who has not officially declared a bid.”

INSIDE THE BACHMANN BRAIN TRUST. “Rep. Michele Bachmann could enter the presidential race with considerable buzz, but it’s unclear whether the Minnesota Republican can assemble a stable campaign team capable of guiding her to victory in the crucial primary battlegrounds,” Roll Call’s David Drucker reports. “Bachmann has had difficulty holding on to senior Congressional and campaign staff during her four and a half years on Capitol Hill, a problem that could easily persist in the pressure cooker of a White House bid. … Bachmann’s most trusted advisers include media strategist Ed Brookover; Chief of Staff Andy Parrish, a former campaign aide; fundraising consultant Guy Short; and her husband, Marcus Bachmann, a marriage and family therapist. None are heavy on national experience or deeply connected in Iowa, where the Congresswoman is viewed as potentially strong. A top finish in the caucuses would presumably catapult her into contention in the states that follow. But Bachmann’s extended core of advisers are more seasoned. They include Internet consultant Becki Donatelli, who advised Sen.John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) two presidential bids and did work for President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign; political consultant Bob Heckman, a McCain campaign veteran who advised four previous GOP presidential candidates; and Tom McGill, who handles major donor fundraising for Bachmann. McGill previously assisted in the presidential bids of Bush and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as well as campaigns for former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.).”



@thegarance: MT @ThePlumLineGS After Dem win in NY-26, Paul Ryan will release video making pitch for Medicare plan:

@jimdavenport_ap: AP – Pawlenty: An economic pro or crafty budget setter?:

@sherylstolberg: All That Glitters May Redefine Run by Gingrich -

@POLITICO2012: Gallup survey shows Herman Cain leading all his potential rivals in "positive intensity." by @jmsummers

@karentravers: At end of presser, PM Cameron asks Obama: "The Guinness wasn't bad in Ireland right?" Obama's reply: "It was, it was very good"



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