Paul Ryan;'s name is not on the ballot in the special election to fill the open congressional district representing the small towns and suburbs of upstate New York.
That's a good thing, as the politically-toxic Ryan would almost certainly lose the previously "safe" Republican seat.
But Ryan might still cost his party the seat.
Indeed, his ideas have put the Republican nominee in the race on the defensive.
This may shock DC insiders, who still think the House Budget Committee chairman is a convincing character.
And Ryan is convincing.
Up to a point.
The Wisconsin Republican convinced his colleagues in the House to endorse a budget plan that -- via a voucher program -- would use Medicare funds to enrich the private insurance firms that have donated so generously to his campaigns. O.K, in fairness, thatThat wasn't too hard. Ryan's colleagues have a taste for this sort of pay-to-play politics.
Ryan also convinced much of the national media to buy into the fantasy that gutting Medicare was necessary in order to balance the federal budget. That should have been harder, as Ryan's plan, with its many tax breaks for billionaires and multinational corporations, would not balance the budget for decades. But most of the media takes economic stories only slightly more seriously than it does political stories..
So Ryan was on a roll... until the American people caught on to what he was proposing.. Unlike the DC insiders, they objected -- loudly.
First they complained at town-hall meetings. Now, they appear to be preparing to express their grievances at the polls.
New York state voters will troop to the polls May 24 to fill what is supposed to be one of the most solidly Republican congressional seats in the northeast. The former Republican congressman from New York's 26th district, Chris Lee, had to quit after he git caught trolling the Internet for dates. But no one doubted that the Craiglist Congressman would be replaced by an equally upstanding Republican.
Until Paul Ryan made issues matter.
Democratic contender Kathy Hochul has surged since she began attacking Ryan’s plan. As the Buffalo News notes, "The Hochul campaign... has recognized the special dynamics of what looms on May 24 and employs an aide with experience in special elections. The campaign has recognized early on that the educated voters who will vote on Election Day know their issues, that they know the term 'Ryan budget,' and they know that a major overhaul of Medicare as we know it is part of the deal that (Republican nominee Jane) Corwin supports. It’s why issues matter in a special election. 'I had no idea [at the campaign’s start] that the Ryan budget would be in play,' said (a) Democrat close to the campaign. 'But it’s in play.'"
Ryan's budget is not the only thing in play.
So's the seat.
A new Public Policy Polling survey has Hochul opening up a 35 percent to 31 percent lead over Corwin. A third candidate, businessman Jack Davis, who is running an independent campaign based on Tea Party movement themes, is pulling 24 percent of the vote, while Green Ian Murphy is at 2 percent.
Public Policy Polling is a Democratic-leaning firm. But these numbers follow the pattern of previous surveys, which showed Hochul rapidly closing on Corwin after the Democrat made Ryan's budget a central issue.
And Hochul is not backing off now that she has moved into the lead.
The Democrat, a popular county clerk with deep roots in the region, is airing new television commercials that highlight the fact that Corwin (and Davis) would "cut benefits for seniors while cutting taxes for the wealthy."
Hochul promises to "fight the Republican budget that aims to decimate Medicare and any Republican efforts to privatize Social Security."
"I will stop at nothing," she says, "to protect the guarantees we’ve made to our seniors over the last 76 years.”