2:04 pm Aug. 13, 20121
Even as they acknowledge his selection as Mitt Romney's running mate to be a "roll of the dice," two House Republicans from New York say it's at least a good thing that Paul Ryan now has a national platform to defend his ideas.
"People have said that the Ryan budget is unpopular," Representative Peter King told me this morning. "It may be, but Paul wasn't there to defend it. It was brought up in individual congressional districts, but Paul wasn't there to defend it. Now he'll have a national forum to defend it and force people like Joe Biden to show what their alternative is."
That hope was echoed by Representative Michael Grimm who, as a Republican freshman in a swing district, would seem to have a significant amount to lose from any residual drag from the Ryan budget.
"Paul Ryan is one of the most articulate, effective speakers when it comes to this subject matter in the country," Grimm said. "See before, he was a member of Congress but he didn't have the bully pulpit like he has now. He's going to be able to say to them and put them on the spot: 'OK, you see this, but what about that?' And they're not going to have an answer, because there's no person I've met—especially on the Democratic side—that is as versatile and as knowledgeable about the budget as Paul Ryan. He's just going to roll right over them with knowledge."
King and Grimm both said voters were ready to support entitlement reforms and deficit-reduction measures, despite a historical aversion to voting for specific cuts to favored programs.
"Without sounding naive, much sooner rather than later, we have to confront the entitlement deficit," King said. "Where better to do it than a presidential campaign and who better to do it for us than the most articulate spokesman we have on that issue? So yeah, it's a bit of a roll of the dice, but I think it's what you owe to history at this stage."
Grimm said Ryan had been a great help to himself and other freshman members, even organizing a series of Powerpoint presentations to help them better understand the federal budget and his own plan for reforming it.
King, who is a committed supporter of Speaker John Boehner, said he likes Ryan, who is more often associated with the right-leaning Republican faction that backs House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
"Put it this way, Paul gets along with all the leadership in the party," King said. "He also gets along with the rank and file." King said Ryan, despite his outspoken pro-life beliefs, "isn't part of that wing of the party, where he runs as somebody that's more moral than somebody else."
He also said, "If I knew half as much about the budget as Paul does, I'd be the most arrogant guy in Congress."