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For House Democrats, Ryan Is a Godsend

U.S. Capitol; Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Photo by Jewel Samad/Getty Images.

Update – 7:45 p.m. Received by cheers and applause in a visit to the House chamber Thursday afternoon, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan went along with House Republicans to avoid a government shutdown and approve a stopgap spending bill $19 billion higher than the budget he had written.

When Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his vice presidential candidate on the GOP ticket a month ago, Democrats saw a light at the end of the tunnel, or, rather, a touchdown within reach.

Football metaphors aside, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is claiming an August win, with “a wind” at its back on “the 20-yard line” against Republicans heading into the next 54 days before the election.

“Paul Ryan has become a down-ballot disaster” for Republicans, said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of DCCC, at a briefing Thursday. By choosing Ryan as a running mate, Israel said Mitt Romney has essentially “given us the bullhorn.”

While polling suggests the new GOP ticket hasn’t necessarily upset the presidential race, Israel argued the effects at the congressional level were significant. A Ryan epithet, according to the DCCC chair: “the architect of the budget that ends Medicare.”

Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin’s 1st district and the chairman of the House Budget Committee, had introduced a budget proposal last year that would privatize Medicare. His 2013 version would keep the traditional program while limiting premiums for seniors.

Israel added, “if you have to defend your vote to end Medicare to fund tax cuts for billionaires,” your vote is at a disadvantage — a resounding message for Democrats repeated in district ad campaigns, including an attack ad on Republican candidate David Rouzer in North Carolina’s 7th congressional district.

Democrats have 25 House Republican seats they’re after in their “Drive For 25” campaign and 50 red-to-blue districts, where they plan to be competitive on Election Day with hopes to win the Majority.

Democrats lost 63 seats in the House in 2010, but Israel said “we are in 2012 where [Republicans] were in 2010,” conceding a “Tea Party tsunami” two years ago that gave Republicans a bump but is now sidelined by a “buyer’s regret” phenomenon.

Paul Lindsay, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, countered: “The only down-ballot disaster in House races is ObamaCare and it’s $716 billion in Medicare cuts for current seniors. It cost Democrats the House in 2010 and will cost them more seats in 2012.”

While Israel acknowledged a 25-seat win would rely heavily on factors and polling trends outside of his and the DCCC’s control, he stressed that recent incidents by the Republican Party — including Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s “reprehensible, not comments but thoughts” on rape and a FBI-probed GOP trip to the Sea of Galilee – would keep “the breeze” on their backs.

“I’ve said it all along, the Republicans are redefining and we’re reminding,” Israel
said, “We’re not going to let them forget their voting records.”

For more election cycle coverage, visit the NewsHour politics page.

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