Remainders: RINO hunting, the right digs in, and the Senate vouchercare vote

If you want to get a peek inside the Republican psyche heading into 2012, you have to go to the source.

So who does RedState.com (and CNN’s) Erick Erickson favor in the upcoming U.S. Senate contests? The answers suggests that the conservative base won’t back down, even in the wake of Tuesday’s massive electoral rebuke of their signature effort: the push to privatize Medicare. And that could be great news for Democrats. In every race he tracks, Erickson is pushing — and pushing hard — for the farthest right candidate conservatives can get — a flip side to the “firebagger” trend on the left, only much more influential.

As interesting as Erickson’s “likes” — Jeff Flake in Arizona, Adam Hasner (who’s fully on board with vouchercare) in Florida — much more interesting are his “dislikes.” The RedState chieftan is no fan of Mike Hardoplos and former Charlie Crist appointee George LeMieux (who’s got his own “better than Ryan!” Medicare plan) in Florida’s Senate race, he detests poor Dick Lugar and fears that Jon Bruning in Nebraska will morph into — the horror! — Chuck Hagel! He even says he’d “love to take out Roger Wicker,” in far right Mississippi – though I assume he means in the political sense, not the “meet the Census taker at the front door with a shotgun sense” (ahem.) If anti-abortion crusadin’, don’t regulate the subprime lenders Wicker isn’t conservative enough, well gaawlee.

Perhaps Erickson’s biggest dislike this year is Jon Huntsman, the relatively moderate former Utah governor who is running to be the anti-Mitt Romney in the GOP presidential race. Erickson went off on Huntsman over the rather slimy way he ditched his job working for the president in order to run against him (something on which he and I actually agree.) But if you want to get a feel for how the GOP base really feels about Huntsman, you’ve got to go talk to Morgen, who produced the video above and apparently sees Huntsman as a proxy, during the primary, for Barack Obama in the fall. I kid you not.

Evidence of Huntsman disdain can be found all over the red part of the blogosphere, from the Freepers to the Hotair comments section. Gotta tell you, Huntsman reminds me of no one so much as this guy:

Right down to the stimulus hug, cap and trade/belief in global warming, “working across the aisle” thing and the proximity to one Barack Obama. Even the white hair and the tan are the same. It’s almost creepy…

Meanwhile, Huntsman (before NY 26 happened, in fairness) has already yoked himself to vouchercare. And he’s not the only Republican who doesn’t appear willing to learn the lesson that privatizing Medicare is bad mojo.

Paul Ryan is doubling down, and trying to defend his plan on principle – a principle already rejected by like 80 percent of the American people.

Harry Reid finally staged the much-anticipated Ryan vote in the Senate Wednesday, and just five GOP Senators voted to spare themselves the wrath of the what, 99 percent of Americans who actually like Medicare:

Republican Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) voted no.

And yes, that name you read above was Rand Paul. More telling than the vote, which was pretty much as expected, was the whining afterward:

Republican senators complained at a Tuesday lunch meeting about the political trap they said Democrats set for them.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told his rank-and-file members that they were free to vote their conscience and warned them the vote would have negative political ramifications in some instances, according to GOP sources.

He advised his colleagues to prepare to explain their votes, whether yay or nay, when they return home and meet with constituents.

Doesn’t exactly sound like strong messaging. And Paul was willing to criticize Ryan by name, not for his content, but rather his timing and strategy:

Some Republican senators said it was a mistake for Ryan to roll controversial Medicare reforms into a broader budget package.

“All Ryan had to do was set an overall number and leave it up to the policymaking committees how to come up with the savings,” one GOP senator told The Hill last week.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who voted “no” because Ryan’s plan fails to balance the budget within the foreseeable future, said Medicare should have been handled separately.

“One of the problems he’s having is it’s stuck in a whole big budget with a lot to talk about and it needs to be fully explained — they’re losing that battle in the public as far as the explanation,” Paul said. “If you roll out something that is going to transform an entitlement program we’ve had for 50 years, you roll it out with 10 groups supporting you and press conferences and materials and white papers.”

Paul said he likes some of Ryan’s Medicare reforms, but noted it would do little to reduce the deficit over the next five years.

Ever the maverick in search of, well, any attention at all, Tim Pawlenty came to Florida and refused to say where he stood on vouchercare. He did announce he’ll introduce his own plan to … er … “fix” Medicare, and it will be “similar to the Ryan plan,” only with “payment reform.” Ga! And TPaw is also touching — no grabbing — the “third rail”:

A day after telling Iowans their beloved ethanol subsidies will have to go, Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty used a stop in senior-heavy Florida to call for reining in Social Security and Medicare benefits for future retirees…

It’s part of a tough-medicine tour, designed to highlight Pawlenty’s willingness to tell “hard truths.” He’s also planning to visit Washington to call for less-generous pay and benefits for public sector employees and to New York to call for an end to Wall Street bailouts…

Pawlenty said Social Security’s retirement age must “gradually” increase for people who are not yet in the system. He also called for ending cost-of-living increases for wealthy retirees. He said he’ll release details soon and said the changes would not affect current retirees.

“Tough medicine tour?” When people feel insecure about their jobs and houses, you launch a “tough medicine tour” — meaning the people you’re campaigning amongst — the regular, average working stiff Republican, needs to prepare themselves for “tough medicine???” Am I the only person thinking Walter Mondale, here?

Nate Silver earlier this week posed the inevitable question: when does a trickle become a flood, become a tipping point:

Voting for Mr. Ryan’s bill probably did not help many of the 60 or so Republican representatives whose districts were carried by Barack Obama in 2008. Still, if the public regarded the vote as more or less the usual partisan posturing on the budget — Democrats vote one way, Republicans the other — the down side of backing the Ryan plan might have been limited.

Once some Republicans start to defect, though, the public may come to view the bill in a different way. Instead of seeing it as a division between Republicans and Democrats — neither of whom are trusted much on budget issues — voters may instead start to see it as a division between moderate Republicans and extremely conservative ones. Voters who are not steeped in the bill’s particulars may well take that as a signal that it is too extreme, and that the “reasonable” majoritarian position is to oppose the plan.

The bigger problem for the Republicans, though, is a snowball effect: each Republican lawmaker who comes out against the bill makes it a bit less popular — and that in turn increases the incentive for other Republicans to break ranks too. Some Republican House members might be willing to stomach voting for a bill that has the support of 45 percent of the voters in their districts, but if popular support is just 40 percent, or 35 percent, they may throw in the towel. So a feedback loop develops, and one defection begets another.

Is five Senators a tipping point?

Can Republicans extricate themselves from vouchercare now that all but four of their House members and all but five of their Senators are wedded to it, and while their presidential candidates are STILL under pressure from the right to support it? This IS the Republican position on Medicare now, like it or lump it. They’re going to have to run on it.

Meanwhile, is Paul Ryan the new Barry Goldwater?

What should make this race all the more alarming for Republicans is that NY-26 turned into a referendum on the Ryan plan for Medicare. As Henry Olsen (of AEI) says:

blue-collar voters react differently to issues than the GOP base does. They are more supportive of safety-net programs at the same time as they are strongly opposed to large government programs in general. These voters crave stability and are uncertain of their ability to compete in a globalized economy that values higher education more each year. They are also susceptible to the age-old Democratic argument that the secret Republican agenda is to eviscerate middle-class entitlements to fund tax cuts for the wealthy.

The Ryan budget is uniquely vulnerable to that attack because it fuses very tough Medicare reforms with big tax cuts in the same document.

The political dangers in the Ryan budget could have been predicted in advance. In fact, they were predicted in advance – and widely. Yet the GOP proceeded anyway, all but four members of the House putting themselves on record in favor. Any acknowledgment of these dangers was instantly proclaimed taboo, as Newt Gingrich has painfully learned. Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer have enthusiastically promoted Paul Ryan as a presidential candidate. And this morning, as the reckoning arrives, the denial continues. Here’s Jonah Goldberg in a column arguing that “perhaps the only guy who can explain the GOP budget should run.”

And if Democrats could have a vote in who becomes the Republican nominee for president, they’d unanimously scream “Run, Ryan Run!” His budget may be dead in Congress, but it most certainly will be alive on the campaign trail.

This entry was posted in 112th Congress, 2012, Medicare, News and Current Affairs, Paul Ryan, People, Political News, Politics, Rand Paul, Republicans and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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