As Gingrich surges, a herd of New York Republican legislators declares for Romney

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Jane Corwin. (Jane Corwin, via flickr)
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Two dozen members of the New York Assembly's Republican minority announced their endorsement of Mitt Romney this afternoon.

The group, which comprises almost half of the lower chamber's 51 Republicans, was headlined by Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who offered this quote: "Mitt Romney is the one candidate with the values and experience that will be needed to go up against President Obama in November."

The endorsement comes as Romney tries to fend off a sudden challenge from former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who has surged in the polls just a few weeks ahead of the first votes in Iowa. (Read what you will into the "values" mention in Kolb's quote.) The timing suggests this is less a stampede of New York Republicans toward the likely winner than it is a circling of wagons around the candidate they'd feel most comfortable with at the top of the ticket.

The most telling name on the list, arguably, is the tenth one down: Assemblywoman Jane Corwin.

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It was Corwin who lost a special election for a congressional seat earlier this year in a heavily Republican district upstate, after she expressed support for Paul Ryan's controversial budget plan, which included changes to Medicare that Democrats hammered as an extreme overhaul that endangered the life of the program.

Romney, who initially hedged on the plan, has become one of its most ardent proponents in recent days, deploying surrogates and commissioning advertisements, in an attempt to cast Gingrich as an unreliably conservative loose cannon who undercut the party's message when he referred to it as "right-wing social engineering."

Romney's pivot has Democrats hoping they can make Medicare an issue again. The Democratic National Committee has sent, by a rough count, five emails today that refer to Romney's embrace of Ryan's plan.

"How much does Mitt Romney love Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as we know it?" asked one of the emails, above a roundup of Romney-Ryan links. "So much that he’s doubled down on it and waged an all-out 'Who loves it more' war with Newt Gingrich. And let’s remember, the Paul Ryan plan doesn’t just end Medicare as we know it – it does so to give more tax cuts for the wealthy."

Democrats trotted that line out, to little effect, in the race to replace Anthony Weiner in the Ninth Congressional District. That race took place a few months after Corwin's loss, but before Occupy Wall Street and rise of income-inequality as an issue of concern for voters. 

Apparently, the Republican assemblymembers endorsing Romney today have made the calculation that they'd rather answer for Paul Ryan's words than Newt Gingrich's.