Democrats Home In on Ryan Budget

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  August 14, 2012 at 9:32 AM EST

Paul Ryan; photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images

GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan campaigns Monday at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan campaigned solo Monday for the first time since joining the GOP ticket, but it was Mitt Romney who faced pressure to lay out the differences between his federal budget proposal and the one put forward by his running mate.

During a press availability Monday afternoon in Miami, Romney refused to offer specifics on where he disagrees with the Ryan plan.

“I’m sure there are places that my budget is different than his, but we’re on the same page,” Romney said. “We want to get America on track to a balanced budget.”

“The items that we agree on, I think, outweigh any differences there may be,” the former Massachusetts governor added. “We haven’t gone through piece by piece, and said, ‘Oh, here’s a place where there’s a difference.’ I can’t imagine any two people even in the same party who have exactly all the same positions on all issues.”

Democrats have called the blueprint by House Budget Committee chairman “extreme” because it would overhaul Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and make sweeping cuts to education programs and other areas.

Romney said Monday that it would be irresponsible to allow federal spending to continue to grow unchecked. “It’s radical and extreme to pass on trillions of dollars of debts to our children knowing that we’re never going to pay back these obligations that we’ve taken on,” he said.

Still, by selecting Ryan, Romney has put the House GOP budget front and center in the presidential campaign.

Vice President Joe Biden, speaking Monday in Durham, N.C., rejected claims by some that Ryan’s plan was a “bold” solution to the fiscal problems facing the country.

“What’s gutsy about giving millionaires and billionaires tax breaks? What’s gutsy about gutting Medicaid, Medicare, education?” Biden asked the crowd.

Biden also made clear the Democratic ticket would not give Romney any daylight on the Ryan budget proposal.

“There’s no distinction between what the Republican Congress has been proposing the last two years — actually, the last four years — and what Gov. Romney wants to do,” Biden said. “So let’s cut through all this. We’re running against — or they’re running on what the Republican Congress has been promoting for the past four years.”

President Obama raised the issue of Medicare during a campaign stop Monday in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

“Gov. Romney and his allies in Congress, they think that if we just get rid of more regulations on big corporations and give more tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, if we end Medicare as we know it, make it a voucher system, then somehow this is all going to lead to jobs and prosperity for everybody,” Mr. Obama said.

The shift in the debate from jobs and the economy to budget priorities is welcome news for the Obama campaign. The sooner Romney can answer questions about how his fiscal roadmap differs from Ryan’s, the more likely it is that he’ll be able to move the conversation back to the issues that benefit him.

To that point, Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin writes that Romney must provide clarity on the budget:

If Romney-Ryan wants to be known, as they claim they do, as the substance and specificity ticket, Romney and his advisers should spell out calmly, clearly, and completely where he differs from Ryan and why.

Boston probably is hoping that all this blows over and the press corps moves on. In this case, I don’t think that will happen.

Given the Fiscal Cliff, budget choices for the person elected in November are more the whole ball game than in any presidential race I can recall.

The White House and much of the media are going to stay on this issue for a good long time. Instead of playing rope-a-dope, Romney should stand and answer.

If he can’t or won’t, he’s got bigger problems than he gamed out when he made this pick.

The NewsHour tackled all of these issues in a supersonic package Monday night that examined Ryan’s biography, policy positions and the politics of having him on the ballot.

Gwen Ifill hosted a discussion about Ryan’s budget blueprint and policy vision, talking with Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Heritage Foundation’s Patrick Knudsen and Roll Call reporter Steven Dennis.

The trio examined the particulars of what House Republicans approved. Dennis outlined how Ryan’s plan differs from Romney’s:

[T]he general gist of where they’re trying to go is roughly the same. Romney’s been pretty vague about where he would cut spending. Ryan’s been a lot more detailed, although still on a lot of these individual programs, the detail is not quite there for either of them.

I think one thing that is interesting is how Paul Ryan’s own tax policy proposals have evolved. You know, his original road map plan would have eliminated taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest, which, you know, we have reported that that would have been a 1 percent tax rate for Mitt Romney in 2010.

Now, he didn’t put that in his budget, and, basically, because you couldn’t pass that in the Congress. And, instead, he has this sort of tax reform idea of 25 percent, 10 percent. Mitt Romney said, well, I will have a 20 percent across-the-board tax break and delete some deductions to pay for it.

Watch that discussion here or below:

There’s been a ton of great reporting on how Ryan’s Medicare changes could help or hurt on the campaign trail. Roll Call’s Janie Lorber noticed that Ryan has gotten plenty of donations from retirees and older supporters.

The Hill’s Cameron Joseph and Alexandra Jaffe reported that GOP strategists are worried Ryan’s addition to the presidential ticket “will cost their party House and Senate seats this fall.”

They quoted one unnamed strategist who said the selection of Ryan “could put the Senate out of reach. In the House it puts a bunch of races in play that would have otherwise been safe.”

Politico’s Alex Isenstadt gets hold of a National Republican Congressional Committee memo that instructed candidates: “Do not say: ‘entitlement reform,’ ‘privatization,’ ‘every option is on the table.’ …Do say: ‘strengthen,’ ‘secure,’ ‘save,’ ‘preserve, ‘protect.’”

The NewsHour also looked at what drove Ryan to politics, with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert telling Jeffrey Brown about the Republican’s work as a wonk on Capitol Hill and the evolution to joining the fray himself. As for Ryan’s district, it’s politically diverse, Gilbert said:

Janesville is a Democratic-leaning city, but this is a district that contains Democratic areas and Republican areas and urban, rural and suburban areas. It’s become a little bit more Republican over time. But Paul Ryan is one of the few really top conservatives in the House who has had to run in a district that is fairly purple. And I think that speaks to his political skills.

Watch the chat here or below:

Judy Woodruff closed the package with Christina and Dan Balz of the Washington Post, looking at the politics of the decision and how it might affect the electoral math in the fall.

Watch that here or below.

In this week’s Political Checklist with Christina, Gwen and Judy, we predicted both campaigns may avoid delving into policy specifics to avoid attacks from the other side.

Watch that here or below:

VOICES FROM COLORADO

NewsHour production assistant David Pelcyger from our Denver bureau captured voices from the Centennial State, one of the prime battlegrounds this fall.

The bottom line? Voters are glad they’re getting attention but are feeling a little inundated with candidate visits and television ads.

Watch here or below.

DEBATE PREVIEW

Don’t expect Romney and Mr. Obama to channel Lincoln-Douglas. This year’s presidential debates will follow a new format that allows for back-and-forth between the candidates.

Specifically, the debates will allow for discussion of six segments, with 15 minutes allotted for each. After questioning from the moderator that begins each segment, the candidates will have “open time” for discussion.

Jim Lehrer was selected to moderate the first of three presidential debates, on Oct. 3, and discussed the new format on Monday’s NewsHour.

Lehrer said his role will be to “help the candidates explain in a way that the voters understand what the choices really are.”

He added:

[S]ocial media will play an input role going in and an output role coming out, no question about it, in terms of reaction and all of that. But what is going to be — what the people are going to see and hear are the real words of these two real men talking. And that has nothing to do with the social media. … [T]he event itself will be old-fashioned, in the best sense of the word.

Watch the discussion here or below:

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Kwame Holman hosted two campaign finance experts in our newsroom. Watch the discussion about disclosure, produced by reporter-producer Cassie M. Chew, here.

  • Team Obama goes up with a video complaining about Romney’s welfare reform attack.

  • The Root on Ryan’s relationship with black voters.

  • The Washington Post profiles Janna Ryan.

  • The New York Times outlines Ryan’s close and rare-for-a-politician ties to the Koch brothers.

  • The Democratic super PAC American Bridge has a new web video hitting Romney on tax shelters.

  • It’s official. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will keynote the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio gets a primetime spot at the convention as well.

  • The presidential campaign headquarters will see a visit from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is on his own campaign to draw attention to immigration policy.

  • The Boston Globe examines Ryan’s record on stimulus funds.

  • Chris Cillizza looks at how Iowa became a swing state.

  • Bloomberg’s Heidi Przybyla writes that Ryan was a “pivotal figure in killing the 2010 Bowles-Simpson agreement,” which Romney “now holds out as a model for putting America’s fiscal house in order.”

  • Stu Rothenberg uses his column to flesh out which polls he pays the most attention to and why.

  • ProPublica dives deep into “dark money” in politics.

  • The Obama campaign says the president on Tuesday will pressure Congress to extend the production tax credit for wind energy companies. The Iowa push is aimed at suggesting the president has a plan to create jobs that Republicans are blocking.

  • On “The Tonight Show,” first lady Michelle Obama tells Jay Leno about attending the Olympics — and that she isn’t pleased gymnast Gabby Douglas enjoys egg McMuffins.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Rep. Jesse Jackson, D-Ill., has bipolar disorder.

  • We’re watching Tuesday’s congressional primaries in Wisconsin, Connecticut and Florida.

  • Our own Paul Solman has rid himself of his mustache. This post about the decision includes a poll on whether or not he should grow it back.

  • The NewsHour is encouraging all 78 million baby boomers to write in and “Ask Larry” about Social Security for a new recurring column on Mondays. Read the first round of questions.

  • Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad considers former President Bill Clinton’s role on the campaign trail.

Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Vice President Biden attends a campaign event in Danville, Va., at 10:15 a.m., and another in Wytheville at 4:15 p.m.

  • President Obama campaigns in Iowa with stops in Oskaloosa at 12:25 p.m., Marshalltown at 4:45 p.m. and Waterloo at 8:45 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney campaigns in Ohio with stop in Beallsville at 12:30 p.m., Zanesville at 3:40 p.m. and Chillicothe at 7:20 p.m.

  • Paul Ryan stumps in Lakewood, Colo., at 1:35 p.m. and Las Vegas at 7:15 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.