Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ryan's out, Thompson's in for the Wisconsin Senate race

Last week Herb Kohl (D-WI) announced that he would not seek re-election for his Senate seat, which has probably put it in the toss-up column, and I wrote about some of the people who might be looking to take a run at the thing. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan said that he would give it some thought and, after having done so, has decided that he will stay put.

In a statement, Ryan said the following:

I believe continuing to serve as Chairman of the House Budget Committee allows me to have a greater impact in averting this debt-fueled economic crisis than if I were to run for the United States Senate. House Republicans have taken bold steps forward in tackling our fiscal and economic challenges - we have led where others have not. I want to keep building on this progress.

Okay, so he believes he can have a greater impact in the House Budget Committee. Whatever. I speculated last week that having Ryan run for the Senate given how toxic his Medicare destroying budget plan is turning out to be would give this divisive issue even more profile -- as if it needed it.

Enter Tommy Thompson, former Republican Governor of Wisconsin and Health and Human Services Secretary, who has now indicated that he is going to run for the seat now that Ryan has taken himself out of it. Problem is that Thompson is something of a moderate, particularly on the issue of Medicare. So, even without Ryan, the Wisconsin Senate race is still going to help keep the issue top of mind.

As Jonathan Chait notes, Thompson not only supports a plan that might have similarities to the Affordable Care Act, as other Republicans have done, he has specifically endorsed Obama's plan itself.

In 2009, along with Richard Gephardt, fellow Board member of America's Agenda: Health Care for All, Thompson wrote:

The health-care bill in the Senate represents another milestone in achieving meaningful health-care reform for millions of Americans. It is now critical that members of Congress work together in a bi-partisan fashion to pass a common-sense, fiscally responsible solution to drive down health-care costs, ensure access to affordable and quality care, achieve efficiency and achieve real savings.

And if that isn't specific enough,
Thompson wrote at The Huffington Post in April, noting his opposition to Paul Ryan's Medicare plan, that:

Simply cutting Medicare isn't the answer by any means. Instead, let's focus on the most effective fiscal path forward with the least amount of impact on millions of seniors, their families and our broader economy. In other words, reform Medicare don't cut it.

As Chait states, "The question is whether Republicans want to take the trade-off of winning a Senate seat in return for accepting a high-profile defector from the Obama-care jihad. My guess is they won't."

My guess is that Chait is right, which can only mean a high-profile Tea Party-backed campaign to beat Thompson in a nomination fight -- a fight that will again keep the Ryan plan to cut Medicare front and center.

I still cannot believe that the Republican leadership in Washington didn't fully understand the electoral implications of Ryan's plan to eviscerate Medicare. Are they really that clueless?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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