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April 26, 2011

Not So Much Doom? USAToday Headline: "GOP's Gamble on Budget Pays Off, For Now"

Sort of good poll results -- the first good poll result is that the public is split on the painful but realistic and honest Ryan plan and the supposedly pain-free, patently absurd and dishonest Obama plan. That right there is actually pretty cheering news, because nonsense and hokum like Obama's plan to have a plan/death by a thousand commissions crap has generally sold pretty well in the past.

And they still trust the GOP more on the budget.

So: so far, so good:

Americans are evenly divided between the deficit plan proposed by President Obama and the one drafted by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, and those surveyed put more trust in Republicans than Democrats to handle the federal budget and the economy…

The poll highlights perils for the GOP as they move from general points to specific ones. That is not media spin; that is reality. The public has punished anyone who's attempted to do more than talk about reforming our unreformable entitlement scheme.

This is the third rail of American politics, as they say. When Bush attempted to add an ownership-option to Social Security, some analysts were surprised that he'd touched the third rail but hadn't been electrocuted. A Democrat responded: "That's just because we haven't turned the juice on yet." When the juice was turned on, and the ads and media soundbite onslaught began, the public turned sour on the program, and the Republicans retreated, fearful of punishment at the polls.

The Democrats have been doing some attacking on this point, but it's still 18 months out from the election. If I know their minds, and I think I do, they are giving the GOP a general pass on this at the moment, for two reasons:

1, because the hit will have much more impact closer to the election. Especially given that the argument in favor of the Ryan plan is a lengthy, rational one, and will take time and a calm circumstance to explain. If the Democrats just start an all-out attack on the plan with three months to go, there won't be a lot of time for roundtable presentations and townhalls, and furthermore, the public may be riled up and emotional and not given to dispassionate consideration of the facts, and by facts, I mean the mathematics of inevitability.

2, because they want to create a "safe" environment for as many Republicans as possible to strongly endorse the Ryan plan, so that as many as possible will be damaged when the political war begins.

That said, it's still certainly not a bad thing that even given the general "radical" contours of the Ryan plan, the public is still merely split on it.

Since we will not be able to argue rationally about this three months before the election, the GOP's top intellectual guns have to make the rational case now, early and often, so at least there's a cushion of reason when the emotional thrashing begins, and who knows, maybe some people will actually be convinced and hence immunized against the deluge of attack ads.

The GOP is being pretty quiet about the Ryan plan, not wishing to rile the public up about it. That is the wrong strategy. Because the Democrats are going to make sure the public is good and riled at election time.

That is not speculation; that is fact. As much as it is fact that the sun will rise tomorrow, it is also a fact that the Democrats will make a major, noisy, emotional issue of this.

Republicans who are being quiet on this, hoping this storm will just pass without incident, are living in fool's delusion.

The only way to even get to a draw on this issue, and not be devastated by it, is to talk as much as possible during a period when the public is at least inclined to listen.

Anyone who thinks that they get through 2012 without the Ryan plan being a big issue probably should lose (as they probably will), because that's just dumb wishcasting.

Either start talking it up now, if you're in favor, or start doing the Obama Dance of "Wanting a National Discussion" while explicitly refusing to embrace the plan-- one side of the road or the other; anyone in the middle will get roadkilled.

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posted by Ace at 01:21 PM

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