Republicans are undergoing two strange, simultaneous reactions to the Paul Ryan budget. The first is that they're recognizing it's a political disaster and frantically trying to reframe the issue as classic tax-cutting "pro-growth" Republicanomics. Is second, oddly enough, is enshrining the Ryan budget as party orthodoxy. Dave Weigel writes:
I don't think Gingrich was unprepared for the media to ask him about the Ryan plan. What stings him here is the cheetah speed at which the Ryan Plan became 1) Republican orthodoxy, the first real attempt to shrink the welfare state since 2005, 2) something all Republican voters were intimately aware of and bought into, and 3) something they'd immediately confront him about. The rapidity with which legislation can become a litmus test, in the era of the Tea Party and social networks and blogs, is stunning.
First Read concurs:
Here’s a final point about Newt yesterday: It’s more evidence that if you criticize Ryan’s budget plan -- and, more importantly, its Medicare overhaul -- then you’re not considered a mainstream conservative Republican. Ryan’s budget plan has become the ultimate conservative litmus test. Who is happiest about this development? The folks in charge of the Obama re-elect.
This does seem like a worst-of-all-worlds situation for the GOP. They invested a huge amount of energy into branding Ryan's budget as the Republican plan and the one thing standing between America and the abyss. Republican voters, and many elected officials, took that seriously. So seriously that it's become an issue where Republican elected officials are going to have to hold the line upon pain of enraging the base.
But at the same time, Republicans -- including, from I can tell, Ryan -- are panicking over the politics of the issue, and realizing they have handed Democrats a powerful weapon against them. They enshrined as party orthodoxy something that's so unpopular a Democrat in a heavily Republican district can single-handedly use it to surge into the lead. That's a horrible combination.