5:45 pm Aug. 15, 20121
Chuck Schumer circulated a new set of talking points to Senate Democrats this afternoon, urging them to puncture the narrative of Paul Ryan as a "serious and statesmanlike" teller of hard fiscal truths.
"Ryan is a nice man, but a deficit hawk he is not," wrote Schumer in a memo posted by Politico. "The budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy contained in his plan show a Cheney-like disregard for budget deficits."
Schumer helped complicate Ryan's emergence on the national stage, targeting him as a budget-cutting bogeyman as far back as January 2011, when Republicans first re-gained control of the House.
Ryan was the primary foil for Schumer's attempt to revive the Democrats' messaging operation, and the goal was to put Ryan on a par with Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor who self-destructed as a national candidate in his first big speech on the national stage.
Schumer failed to fully sink Ryan, but Democrats inflicted enough damage on his budget plan that his selection as vice president was considered a bold gamble from the risk-averse Romney campaign.
In today's memo, Schumer encouraged Democrats to keep hammering the two main points thus far: that Ryan's plan would force seniors to pay more, and that it would give huge tax breaks to the wealthiest earners. But Schumer urged them to make a larger point.
"That larger point is this: at least in terms of deficit reduction, the Ryan plan is a fraud," he wrote, citing a Congressional Budget Office analysis that said Ryan's plan wouldn't balance the budget until 2040.
Schumer offered four other talking points for why Ryan isn't a budget hawk: his votes in favor of George W. Bush's policies; his vote against the Simpson-Bowles plan; his encouraging John Boehner to pull out of "grand bargain" talks with President Obama; and the math on his budget plan.
"If we can succeed in showing voters how Ryan is not really a deficit hawk at all -- that he prioritizes conservative ideology over balancing the budget -- the rationale for his selection is gone, and Romney's political high-wire act will fail," Schumer wrote.
Control of the Senate could hinge on how effectively Democrats can demonize the Ryan budget, with a handful of close races likely to tip the balance. Even before Ryan's selection, the Republican candidate in Montana was advertising his votes against Ryan's budget, and, since then, others have carefully maintained their distance.
The Democratic message is complicated somewhat by one of its own: Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, whose attempts to forge a Medicare compromise with Ryan have already become a preferred GOP talking point.