As Obama speaks, Democrats target GOP’s Ryan
President Barack Obama may grab all the headlines with his State of the Union address. But Democrats want the GOP’s chosen responder, Paul Ryan, to share the spotlight — as poster boy for politically unpopular ideas that could be used against Republicans in 2012.
Here’s New York Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer’s take on Ryan on that electorally tender topic, Social Security. “What Paul Ryan suggests — privatization — is really a dismantling of Social Security,” he tells MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“The election said reduce government spending and refocus the government on the middle class. It didn’t say go back to the 1920s and just get government out of everything including Social Security,” says Schumer, one of the Democratic Party’s leading political strategists.
Why pick on Ryan?
The 40-year-old chairman of the House Budget Committee is a rising Republican star on fiscal issues that will top the U.S. domestic agenda for as far as the eye can see. That means he could be quite a force in U.S. politics in years to come, including presidential politics.
Democrats know that those chosen to respond to SOTUs in the past have not always fared well afterward. So, they see this as a chance to get Ryan’s newfound prominence off to a good stumble.
The trip line is Ryan’s own controversial plan, “A Roadmap for America’s Future,” which calls for private investment accounts for Social Security and a new system to replace Medicare.
That can be scary stuff for voters, and so Democrats want to persuade the public that it’s what the Republican Party is really all about. Or as Schumer puts it: “Aren’t the Republicans making a huge mistake by putting Paul Ryan front and center? He is not in the mainstream on these issues.”
In reply, Republicans accuse Democrats of crying up hobgoblins and say the party of FDR and LBJ doesn’t even recognize the problems facing the programs in question.
But there may be a fly in the ointment for Democrats, because House Republican Michele Bachmann also intends to respond to the SOTU — online, on behalf of the Tea Party Express.
Some pundits say that could help Ryan. As the argument goes, Bachmann’s far enough to the right to place him somewhere in the more moderate middle ground between her and the president.
Not that Bachmann sees her SOTU response as an SOTU response, mind you.
“I never took this as a State of the Union response necessarily that I would be giving,” she is quoted as saying by the Daily Caller. “I am not giving the official Republican response. This is not a competition. I’m very excited about Paul Ryan’s response, I think he’ll do a wonderful response. This was really a reaction that I was giving to people in the Tea Party.”
Reuters Photo Credits: Jonathan Ernst (Paul Ryan) and (Charles Schumer); Kevin Lamarque (Michele Bachmann)
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