Why Romney 'Applauds' But Doesn't Embrace Ryan Plan

Why Romney 'Applauds' But Doesn't Embrace Ryan Plan

According to a memo obtained by CNN, surrogates for the Romney/Ryan campaign appearing on television today will disassociate slightly from the Paul Ryan budget plan. Here’s what the memo had to say:

Questions and Answers About The Romney/Ryan Ticket:

1) Does this mean Mitt Romney is adopting the Paul Ryan plan?

· Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance.

· Romney’s administration will go through the budget line by line and ask two questions: Can we afford it? And, if not, should we borrow money from China to pay for it?

· Mitt Romney will start with the easiest cut of all: Obamacare, a trillion-dollar entitlement we don’t want and can’t afford.

· Mitt Romney also laid out commonsense reforms that will make good on our promises to today’s seniors and save Social Security and Medicare for future generations.

As my colleague Tony Lee has pointed out, there are two potential pitfalls to this strategy: disheartening the base, and allowing the media to distract from the Obama record by focusing instead on discrepancies between Romney and Ryan on the Ryan Plan.

But there’s another reason why the Romney team is “applauding” rather than endorsing the Ryan Plan: it doesn’t want to be enmeshed in a media-driven debate about the details of the Ryan Plan vs. Obama’s record. In other words, by applauding but not endorsing the Ryan Plan, Romney can simply state that he likes the seriousness with which the Ryan Plan tackles our nation’s serious budgetary issues – and at the same time, he can avoid associating himself too closely with potentially politically problematic aspects of the Ryan Plan, particularly with regard to Medicare, which Democrats will demagogue in Florida.

It might be more edifying for the Romney campaign to spend its days defending the Ryan Plan in its entirety, fighting liberal lies about it. But that won’t win an election, where the question in voter’s minds will simply be: who is more serious about our nation’s fiscal issues? There’s only one way to win that election: to keep focus on the difference between Obama’s spending insanity and Ryan’s spending responsibility, rather than getting bogged down in minutia. On a broad level, Ryan’s selection has changed the campaign from one of details to one of broad issues; by avoiding a full-scale embrace of the Ryan Plan, Romney is trying to keep it that way.