Paul Ryan's Debut: What Went Right, What Went Wrong? (The Note)

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By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )


  • NOT A WINNING CAMPAIGN ISSUE: 'LEGITIMATE RAPE': Missouri Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin, who opposes abortion in most cases, including rape, said in a television interview yesterday that it is "really rare" that victims of "legitimate rape" get pregnant, notes ABC's Dean Schabner. "From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin, who is running against Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, said in an interview on the "Jaco Report" on KTVI-TV. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." He added that if the woman does become pregnant, "the punishment ought to be on the rapist." Akin later released a statement saying he "misspoke" and that he has "deep empathy" for victims of rape.
  • THE SKINNY ON THE GOP'S HOLY LAND SKINNY DIPPER: A group of House Republicans visiting Israel as part of an official Congressional delegation last summer enjoyed a late night of drinking at the Sea of Galilee that included swimming and, in the case of one member, a little skinny dipping in the place where the Bible says Jesus walked on water, reports ABC's Jonathan Karl. The story was first reported by Politico and has been confirmed by ABC News. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was on the trip but was not present for the late night antics. When Cantor was told about what happened, according to Republican sources, he was "livid" and called members of the delegation to say the behavior was unacceptable and must never be repeated. The skinny dipper, according to the sources, was Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas.
  • FRESH FROM BOSTON AND CHICAGO: The Romney campaign released a new television ad this morning, titled "Richmond Times-Dispatch On Welfare Reform." As the campaign points out: "Last month, President Obama quietly gutted bipartisan welfare reform by ending the work requirement. One of the country's leading newspapers called it 'nuts.' Mitt Romney will put work back in welfare. WATCH: Meanwhile, As ABC's Devin Dwyer reports, the Obama campaign is out with state-specific radio ads in Iowa, Virginia, Nevada, Florida, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. Each of the ads hit the Romney-Ryan budget. In Florida, for example, "voters will hear how experts have said that the Romney-Ryan plan turns Medicare into a voucher and takes away the guarantee that millions of Floridians count on."


It was just over a week ago that Mitt Romney introduced Paul Ryan as his vice presidential pick. After a few days of campaigning together, the Republican candidates went their separate ways, but today they are re-uniting to mark Romney's 100th town hall meeting in New Hampshire.

ABC Political Director Amy Walter took a closer look at how Romney's running mate - who many saw as a bold and even risky pick - performed during his debut week on the national stage:

-He's A Needed Shot Of Energy And Confidence For Romney: On the stump, Ryan has been solid. He's engaging and personable. He's energetic. He also tells Romney's story better than Romney, himself. The degree to which Ryan makes Romney a better candidate is undeniable. And, we'll see that dynamic on display again today in Manchester, N.H.

-He's Taken Medicare Issue From Backburner To Hot Topic: For the first four days Ryan was on the campaign trail, he didn't utter the word Medicare. Now, thanks to Democratic attacks on Ryan's signature budget plan, it's become the issue. There are plenty of Republicans who remain worried that by choosing Ryan the presidential race will be litigated on Medicare. As one conservative GOP consultant told ABC News on Friday, "As a strategist, I am offended by this pick."

That said, this strategist, as well as other Republican insiders we've spoken with, are far from despondent about the fight. This isn't about winning the issue, they say, it's simply about breaking even. Said, one Republican strategist, "I am not arguing for a win on this issue. This is a draw," he said.

Another Republican who is involved in competitive House races said: "I think a lot of strategists are reliving Bush and Social Security" fight from 2005. (A fight, of course, that Republicans lost badly.) The battle on Medicare reform, said this strategist is "really is a different game."

And, Ryan is playing the game differently. Specifically, he's playing offense.

-Ryan's Moved From Defense To Offense On Medicare Attacks: On the trail he pivots directly from defining his record on Medicare to laying out a withering indictment of Obamacare's "$716 billion in Medicare cuts." Ryan actually endorsed the same cuts in his signature budget plan, the same plan Romney has said he would sign if he became president.

Ryan says he was forced to build his plan on those cuts because they were signed into law and he had to base his plan off of what was already current law. The $716 billion in cuts do not affect benefits for today's seniors. Instead, they reduce provider reimbursements and curb waste, fraud and abuse.

Ryan has become deft at blurring the lines of these inconvenient facts. And, muddying the issue is the best way for Team Romney to turn Medicare from liability to irrelevant. At a Saturday event at The Villages senior community in Florida, he simplified his program into three sentences. "Here is what Mitt Romney and I will do. We will end the raid of Medicare. We will restore the promise of this program." Saying he will "empower" seniors instead of depriving them, he was able to succinctly sell his plan, with his 78-year old mother by his side, and he did it without a white board or a confusing pitch.

-Bottom Line: This isn't to say that this new approach is guaranteed to work. Democrats are still convinced that Medicare is an issue that they can exploit to their benefit. Yet, it's also clear that Ryan and Romney refuse to let Democrats define the parameters of the debate. Now, the question is whether he and Romney will be able to move beyond Medicare and onto the issue they'd really like to define this campaign: Obama's record on the economy.

ABC's Shushannah Walshe contributed reporting.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: A full week into the Paul Ryan rollout, the Romney campaign got the new debate it wanted. But remind us why they wanted a new debate again? For months, Romney and his aides have been extraordinarily disciplined in keeping the focus on the candidate's perceived strengths - jobs and the economy - at the expense of myriad shiny-story-of-the-day messaging. Now, the campaign is all about Medicare - a place Democrats have long felt more comfortable duking it out. Even if the Romney-Ryan ticket finds a way to play Medicare to its advantage (for now, at least, by focusing on Obamacare's Medicare cuts), that doesn't necessarily make this winning GOP terrain.

ABC's JONATHAN KARL: Republicans are scrambling to limit the damage from the bizarre and offensive comments made by Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin about how pregnancy rarely results from cases of "legitimate rape." The widely held view among Republicans is that Akin's comments are so out of bounds that he cannot win. Republican officials are now exploring the possibility of replacing Aiken on the ballot, but first he would need to be he would need to be convinced to drop out. Before this controversy, Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill had been seen as one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators up for reelection this year. Mitt Romney has condemned Akin's comments and so have at least two other Republican Senate candidates. Montana Republican Senate candidate Rep. Denny Rehberg called Akins comments "reprehensible."

ABC's JAKE TAPPER: Democrats are trying to broaden the Todd Akin controversy beyond Missouri now, with Democrats saying Paul Ryan and Akin teamed up to redefine rape last year. This morning Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told CBS This Morning, "As a woman I'm really concerned that Paul Ryan doesn't understand that rape is rape."

IS TODD AKIN TOAST? National Journal's Josh Kraushaar writes: "Missouri is a Republican-trending state, and still conservative on social issues. This blunder is going to cost Akin dearly with female voters but the race is still a toss-up. There's a reason why Sen. Claire McCaskill was trailing badly to her three Republican primary opponents. Her job approval numbers are very weak in Missouri. … For the flak Mitt Romney gets over his political skills, it's his party's not-ready-for-primetime battleground Senate nominees that are running behind him."

"THIS WEEK" REWIND: TOOMEY ON THE RYAN MEDICARE PLAN. Sen. Pat Toomey, a member of the congressional "supercommittee" on deficit, voiced support for Paul Ryan's Medicare plan in ABC's "This Week" roundtable: "What happens for someone such as myself, who's 50, when I reach retirement age I'm going to have a range of choices, and the government isn't going to have a specified dollar amount, it's going to require insurers to compete, and it'll set the dollar amount based on that competition, ensuring that I will always be able to receive from the government a premium necessary to buy a plan that's equivalent to current Medicare. So the risk of escalating costs are not carried by the seniors, it's still going to be carried by the government. But we think this is a much better model, because the competition of the various private sector plans, I think, will inevitably discover better and more efficient ways to deliver services."

NORQUIST: GEORGE H.W. BUSH LIED. Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist responded to criticism of his tax pledge from George H.W. Bush. "When George Herbert Walker Bush ran for president, he promised the American people he wouldn't raise their taxes," Norquist said this morning on "This Week." "He lied to them. He broke his commitment to them and they threw him out of office four years later."

A PROBLEM WITH THE PRESIDENT? Wall Street Journal columnist and editorial board member Kimberly Strassel discussed Washington's lack of leadership on deficit and debt: " I don't know if there is with this current president, and you know, with all respect to our two members of Congress here, in the history of Congress, has there ever been an example of Congress coming together to make this some gigantic decision without a president leading them along the way and pushing them to do it? And for whatever reason, this is not Barack Obama's style. We have seen the last few years, instead he waits until we're at crisis period; we saw it when the tax cuts were about to expire the first time."

CUTTER: I DIDN'T KNOW THE FACTS OF SOPTIC'S WIFE. Responding to questions about the controversial anti-Romney super PAC ad from Priorities USA, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter told ABC's Jake Tapper: "I didn't know the facts of when Mr. Soptic's wife got sick, and I only recently learned that through all of the hysteria over that ad. But, Jake, what I do know is what Mr. Soptic's experience was with GST Steel, after Mitt Romney bought it, loaded it up with debt, overleveraged it, paid himself excess profits and fees, but then forced that company into bankruptcy, leaving Mr. Soptic without a job, without health care, and without his pension."

CUTTER: GIULIANI SHOULD CONSIDER PALIN ENDORSEMENT. After former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani questioned Vice President Joe Biden's "mental capacity" to be president, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter had this to say: "I would like to point back to his glowing introduction of Sarah Palin during the 2008 Convention," Cutter told ABC's Jake Tapper. "So if he wants to criticize the capacity of the vice president to take hold of this country, he should go back and look at those remarks and whether he still believes that they're true."


-MOVE ON FACT-CHECKS ROMNEY-RYAN: " is releasing a series of informational web videos aimed at exposing for voters the 1% truth behind the Romney-Ryan ticket. Their most recent video entitled 'Revealed' has climbed to over 1/2 million views. The 4 minute video explains the three pronged GOP strategy that includes a little-known, shocking, and racist strategy designed to help Romney win." WATCH: "Today, will release its next in the series of informational videos, featuring former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, detailing for voters the truth in the middle class job-killing 'Romney-Ryan Economic Plan.'" WATCH:


@Markhalperin : DC/GOP phones/emails burning up as senior officials try to figure out what they can do to limit damage from Akin. Replace? Denounce?

@frates : Ryan Makes $4.3 Million House Race Haul

@mckaycoppins : Quite the backdrop awaiting Romney and Ryan at St. Anselm college in NH.

@PhilipRucker : Mitt Romney as lay pastor helped steer church resources to aid illegal immigrants, @jasondhorowitz reports. …

@CHueyBurnsRCP : Scott Brown new ad: Narrating while driving his truck, tough childhood "made me want to fight for others who are trying to get ahead" #MAsen


- President Obama does local interviews at the White House this afternoon with stations from Jacksonville, Fla., Norfolk, Va., and San Diego, Calif, including ABC affiliate WVEC. He is also doing a print interview with the Virginian-Pilot. In the evening, the president and First Lady Michelle Obama have dinner at a local restaurant with winners of a campaign contest.

- Mitt Romney holds a town hall with Paul Ryan in Manchester, N.H. at 10:30 a.m. ET. This marks Romney's 100th town hall. Romney and Ryan will sit for a joint interview with WMUR following the event, before Romney heads to New Orleans for fundraising.

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