Ryan's impact on Rehberg


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If all politics is local, as Tip O'Neill once said, then the most important aspect of Mitt Romney's vice president selection is how it affects Montana's most important race. According to pundits, the addition of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to the Republican ticket does not help Denny Rehberg in his effort to unseat U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.

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The Washington Post listed the Montana race first when assessing "the Ryan ripple effect" on key congressional races:

The GOP nominee, Rep. Denny Rehberg, voted against Ryan’s budget in the House not once but twice. It’s not hard to see why. Montana has a substantial elderly population, and Ryan’s proposal to revamp Medicare into a voucher system is grounds for a Democratic attack. Ryan’s proposal only affects those currently under 55. But national polling shows an aversion to changing Medicare at all. Pair that with Democratic attempts to cast Ryan and his supporters as enemies of seniors, and you have a potentially potent political weapon.

Exit polling in 2008 showed that voters over 65 years old represented 18 percent of the state’s electorate, a couple of ticks higher than the 16 percent national figure. Arizona Sen. John McCain won Montana seniors by four points, which was just half of his advantage nationwide among seniors.

On Saturday, Rehberg praised Ryan, but also offered a reminder that he hasn’t always agreed with the House Budget Committee chairman. The jury is still out on whether Democrats can leverage the Ryan VP pick as an effective way to tie Rehberg to the Wisconsin Republican, but the task is easier than it was on Friday.

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Politico also picked up on Rehberg's precarious position, noting he "is running fast from the Ryan budget." The article went on to say:

Republican unease with the Ryan [budget] plan was on full display earlier this summer, when the National Republican Senatorial Committee put money behind an ad that touted Rehberg’s opposition to the polarizing budget plan.

“And Rehberg refused to support a Republican budget plan that could harm the Medicare programs so many of Montana’s seniors rely on,” the 30-second commercial promoting Rehberg’s Senate candidacy blared.

In his statement Saturday, Rehberg was laudatory of Ryan’s “character, intelligence and creativity” but without specificity, also acutely noted “the few occasions where we haven’t [agreed].”

While the Post wondered whether Democrats could capitalize on the Ryan selection, Politico focused on how Republicans will respond. "The reality is that Ryan is now every Republicans’ running mate whether they like it or not, forcing GOP candidates who would just as soon run from the debate over senior citizen entitlements to embrace the third rail of American politics like never before."

It should be interesting to see how Rehberg handles the topic moving forward.


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