Has Paul Ryan Already Won His Battles?

The National Journal is free during the Republican Convention so all kinds of red-meaty stories are out there regarding substantive issues.  Nancy Cook looks at how Paul Ryan has changed the entire conversation of both the Republican party and national dialogue arguing he has already won the victory he has been seeking for years in Washington:

But, Ryan has already won the political victory he craves regardless of whether the Republicans take the White House. His budget blueprints, though controversial when he first introduced them, have morphed into the intellectual backbone of the Republican Party. More significantly, he has made controversial ideas, like reforming Medicare and overhauling the tax code, less radioactive to the point where these are now central issues for discussion on the campaign trail — ones that the Obama campaign now must address, too. That’s a huge political victory in and of itself, and perhaps, the dearest win for Ryan.

Before he introduced his House budget this spring, he told National Journal that pushing forward on politically sensitive ideas such as entitlement reform was his biggest priority. More important than, say, the Republicans winning the presidency? “Yeah,” he said. “I think we have to do everything we can to change the politics of this. The way I look at it, leaders don’t follow the polls. Leaders try to change the polls, and we have an obligation to try to change the polls to get the country ready for this moment.”

Opinions are starting to shift toward Ryan’s worldview of an impending fiscal crisis, even if polls show a lack of consensus on the best way to deal with government spending.  In January 2007, just 53 percent of people polled by the Pew Research Center considered the budget deficit a top priority for lawmakers. By January 2012, that number jumped to 69 percent. “Well, in theory, people want to see something done,” says Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. “There’s still a lot of resistance to sacrifice.”

The same goes for the polling on the popular health care program for seniors, Medicare. In February 2012, according to polling done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 70 percent of respondents wanted to keep Medicare as is. By this summer, a Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post poll showed that 58 percent of adults preferred Medicare to remain the same: a shift in sentiment that the Kaiser pollster, Mollyann Brodie, attributed to a change in the way the question was asked. Still, the change in sentiment also shows an opening for both campaigns to move the dialogue on the entitlement program for the elderly based on the way they frame and message the issue. “The argument is resonating with the public more, especially those looking for a change,” Brodie says.

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