This week, it’s a trickle down edition of It’s Just Politics. Trickle down: as in how Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate will play down on the rest of the November ballot.
Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan is best-known as the author of a controversial budget plan. And, it’s that plan that’s really been driving most political conversations this week which means Paul Ryan is not only Mitt Romney’s running mate, but is on the ticket with every Republican running this year, including Michigan lawmakers.
We’ve seen the Democratic messaging about how the Ryan plan will end Medicare, "as we know it." In fact, even Romney has said the Ryan budget plan is not his budget plan, but every Republican is, at least, being asked where they stand on it. So, while it may create some problems for congressional candidates – say, a Republican like Dan Benishek in northern Michigan, where there are a lot of seniors, it also allows them to talk about the need for “entitlement reform.”
Speaking of Entitlement Reform…
This week a memo was obtained by the online news site Politico that outlines the new nomenclature that is to be used by Republican candidates when talking about the Ryan budget and federal spending. So, out with “entitlement reform,” “privatization,” and the phrase: “every option is on the table.” Instead, the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee suggests these words: “strengthen,” “secure,” “preserve,” “protect.”
Closer to Home
This messaging fits pretty snugly into the campaign narratives that we’ve seen already in Michigan. In congressional races, they’ll talk about Medicare, Social Security, and the nation's debt. In state House races, the issues will be on a parallel track, framed around the unpopular pension tax, funding for schools and roads and what Republicans in Lansing will say were tough, but responsible, decisions to get the state’s budget house in order.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate race, Republicans have been trying for months to make an issue out of the fact that Senate Democrats – including incumbent Debbie Stabenow – still have not approved a permanent federal budget. GOP Senate nominee Pete Hoesktra is trying to hang her with the nickname “Debbie Spends-A-Lot.”
The Hoekstra campaign therefore was no doubt prepped and ready for that “adult conversation” about federal spending going into this week, when it was hit with a blast from the past. A Democratic operative made RollCall.com aware of an interview that Hoekstra had done on WAAM in Ann Arbor in which he comes out against the 17th Amendment – the direct popular election of U.S. Senators. “The direct election of U.S. Senators made the U.S. Senate act and behave like the House of Representatives. The end result has led to an erosion of states’ rights,” Hokestra explains.
Let's Change the Subject
Hoekstra has advocated for a return to the days of Lincoln-Douglas when state legislatures – and not voters, at least not directly -- chose U.S. Senators. So, one might expect that reaction from the Hoekstra campaign was swift: maybe he would stand by his Originalist position or maybe repudiate and rebut the allegation. Nope. Instead, his spokesman released a statement calling the topic “a distraction” and refused to answer one way or the other on whether Hoekstra thinks voters or state legislatures should choose U.S. Senators.
And, this is not the first time Hoekstra’s had to walk back from something he said earlier on the campaign trail. The former West Michigan Congressman got caught up in the birther controversy earlier this year when he called for a federal agency to background check aspirants for the presidency. It was his solution to the controversy over President Obama’s birth certificate. But it also seemed to put him in the “birther” camp. Where he then had to say he didn’t belong. Yet another time that Hoestkra has had to play a little game of “truth or dare” when he’d certainly rather be talking about something else.