The man charged with electing Democrats to the House of Representatives boasted on Saturday that the party had higher hopes for taking back the majority now that Mitt Romney had tapped Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his vice presidential candidate.
"Mitt Romney this morning may have just become the most recent DCCC majority maker," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel in an interview with The Huffington Post. "It's no question, we have been slogging uphill to get the majority. We needed a national breeze at our backs, and Mitt Romney may have given us that breeze this morning."
Israel isn't the only Democrat waxing optimistic about the benefits the party stands to gain from Romney's choice of Ryan. The Wisconsin Republican is best known for his budget proposal, which includes steep cuts to federal spending and aggressive entitlement reforms, such as turning Medicaid into a block grant program and Medicare into a voucher-like system. Polling has shown that these prescriptions aren't all that popular.
Unlike other Democrats, however, Israel has first-hand experience in seeing how the Ryan budget can play in an election. He helped engineer victories for Rep. Kathy Hochul in upstate New York and for Rep. Ron Barber in Arizona, both of which hinged largely on using the Medicare proposal to the Democrats' advantage. "We know it works," he said, "and it works well."
Now, he predicted, the party could apply the same tactic nationwide.
"The Ryan budget is a debate we know we win, and Mitt Romney has just nationalized the debate," he said. "We have needed a nationalized election on priorities, and we now have a clear contrast between two national brands."
It's difficult to assess just how much the selection of Ryan as VP will turn the election into a referendum on his budget. Romney, after all, moved swiftly to distance himself from the proposals, releasing talking points that said he would craft his own approach to tricky issues like entitlement reform. But even before the VP selection, Democrats were working hard to tie him to the Ryan plan.
"The choice of the plan's author as a running mate makes that task seemingly much easier," Israel said. He said he believes Democrats chances of taking back the house are much improved. "It is still an uphill battle, but we now have a wind at our backs. And I will say this, if we win the majority and the pundits look back at where it turned, I think they are going to look at August 11, with this announcement."
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