Nate Silver, to whom I always refer as the best polling analyst in the business, SAYS Republicans might soon have to decide whether they should pursue a path that could free them from the political snare posed by Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as we know it.
If Republicans determine that they need an “exit strategy” from Mr. Ryan’s proposals, it could produce significant collateral damage. All but 4 Republicans in the House, and all but 5 in the Senate, have already voted for the plan. An increasing number of their Presidential candidates, including Tim Pawlenty last week, have lent their endorsement to it, if not always without equivocation.
Still, staying the course has the potential to muddy their message on issues ranging from the national debt to the country’s newest entitlement program, Barack Obama’s health care bill — precisely those issues that had initially appeared to play to their strengths. Conversely, although Republicans have endured a difficult month, economic indicators over the past several weeks have come in below economists’ expectations, while future forecasts have been revised downward, creating further vulnerability for President Obama and the Democrats and perhaps arguing for a renewed Republican emphasis on Main Street concerns like the labor and housing markets.
So if extricating themselves from Mr. Ryan’s plan might come at a significant cost for Republicans, it could also produce significant benefits.
POSTSCRIPT: Meanwhile, conservative pundit Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, SAYS the GOP can still rescue Medicare reform.
Conservatives should understand that much of the opposition to Medicare reform is conservative, at least in form. It is rooted in a fear of change and a resentment of meddling officials. A general distrust of politics extends to a distrust of politicians engaged in confusing reforms. In a choice between the status quo and major change, a center-right country generally will choose the status quo.
So all Republican arguments in favor of Medicare reform ultimately depend on the success of one argument: that the status quo is not an option.
UPDATE: The best part of this video, in which Donald Trump disses the Ryan Medicare plan, is the incredulity expressed by Gretchen Carson, one of the Three Stooges on the Fox News morning show: