Opinion Brief

Will Paul Ryan's budget cripple the GOP in 2012?

The Republican budget guru has grabbed onto the third rail of American politics with both hands. Will he drag down the GOP’s 2012 hopefuls, or is this a brilliant move?

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is basking in Beltway praise for his "serious" and "courageous" 2012 budget — "courageous" because it proposes politically risky cuts to entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid going into a pivotal election year. House Republicans and GOP presidential hopefuls broadly embraced Ryan's proposal, if not all of its specifics, and The New York Times' David Brooks proclaims that it "will become the 2012 Republican platform, no matter who is the nominee." But could Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" be a road to electoral ruin in 2012?

Yes, this is political suicide: Republicans are "winning the grinding debate over relatively small cuts in the federal discretionary budget," says Mickey Kaus in The Daily Caller. But going after Medicare, seriously or not, is "a near-suicidal act that will lead Republicans off the cliff." Most Americans don't want the popular program to be cut. Republicans should know that — the "threat to Medicare is a big reason why [voters] reject Obamacare."
"Suicide by wonk"

Dems will exploit Ryan's "radicalism" to win: Republicans are clearly betting they will be "rewarded" for killing Medicare and making the middle class pay for millionaires' tax cuts, says Steve Benen in Washington Monthly. Bad move: The Democrats' winning 2012 strategy will be to spin this as "Republican overreach" and the "devastating campaign ads will write themselves." No wonder GOP strategists are nervous.
"The political perils of Ryan's radicalism"

Actually, this is a PR coup for the GOP: Ryan's "serious" debt-reduction plan gives Republicans the "powerful rebranding" they needed after the fiscally unserious Bush years, says Andrew Sullivan in The Daily Beast. And they get to step into a leadership "vacuum" President Obama left by punting on "the most important domestic issue of the day." Obama will lose if he simply resorts to "demagoguing" Ryan's plan, rather than responding with a serious proposal of his own.
"Where Obama feared to tread"

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