Washington — The good news for Connecticut Republicans is that Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, is a hawk on the defense budget, a boon for the vital defense industry in their state.
The bad news for Connecticut Republicans is Ryan’s controversial budget and links to the tea party, prompting some Republicans, including U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon, to distance herself from the vice presidential pick.
The selection of Ryan, who promotes cutting social programs to shrink the federal deficit but would leave the defense budget intact, helps crystallize the Democratic attack on the Romney-Ryan ticket. It has also prompted Democrats to try to tie Ryan’s controversial budget around the necks of GOP congressional candidates, which is especially troublesome for moderate Republicans.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich famously called the Ryan budget plan “right wing social engineering,” a line that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was happy to quote in a statement issued by the Connecticut Democratic Party:
“By selecting Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate, Governor Romney has endorsed a set of policies that are straight from the heart of a harsh right wing agenda, policies that will hurt the middle class, shred the safety net and cut medical care for seniors. This approach is so extreme, Newt Gingrich of all people called it ‘right wing social engineering.’ “
Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5th District, on Saturday immediately tried to link Republican rival McMahon to Ryan’s plan to scrap the current Medicare program for future recipients and replace it with a system of vouchers.
“Congressman Ryan’s budget plan has become a litmus test for Republican candidates,” Murphy spokeswoman Taylor Lavender said in a statement. “Does Linda McMahon also support Congressman Ryan’s disastrous budget? Connecticut’s seniors and middle class families deserve to know.”
McMahon quickly issued a response.
“Linda McMahon will never support a budget that cuts Medicare,” said Corry Bliss, her campaign manager.
Like many Republicans who don’t want to be linked to Ryan’s budget, McMahon has proposed her own budget plan. So has former Rep. Chris Shays, who is also running for the Senate.
But although he thinks his budget plan would cut the deficit better and faster than Ryan, Shays embraced Ryan as a former colleague.
“Governor Romney could not have made a better choice for his running mate than his decision to name my friend and former colleague, Congressman Paul Ryan,” Shays said.
Chris Donovan, a Democratic candidate for the 5th District seat Murphy will vacate because he’s running for the Senate, joined his party’s attacks on Republican candidates Saturday.
“Paul Ryan authored the extreme Republican plan to turn Medicare over to the health insurance companies and Social Security over to Wall Street, while giving more tax giveaways to millionaires and big oil,” he said in a statement. “Democrats can win this year only if we highlight this contrast for voters and promise not to cut programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”
Ross Brennan, campaign spokesman for Republican Andrew Roraback, who is also running for the 5th District seat, said the Ryan budget “had parts (Roraback) likes and parts he doesn’t like.”
About 40 percent of Connecticut’s voters are independent or unaffiliated, and GOP candidates for Congress must win substantial support from them if they hope to win elections.
Romney called Ryan a pro-life Roman Catholic during the introduction of his running mate Saturday in front of a decommissioned aircraft carrier in Norfolk, Va.
That may alienate some independent voters — as may some of Ryan’s proposed cuts to social programs — and puts the presidential ticket at odds with pro-choice Republicans like McMahon, Shays, Roraback and Steve Obstinik, who is challenging Rep. Jim Himes for the 4th District congressional seat.
But University of Connecticut political science professor Vin Moscardelli said Romney had little choice in picking his conservative running mate.
“Romney felt he had to appease the tea party because they are so influential in the Republican Party,” he said.”You can’t ignore them.”
Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report said anyone Romney chose would cause moderate Republicans some trouble because the GOP presidential candidate has been drifting to the right for years.
“What’s different about this than what Connecticut Republicans usually have to deal with when running in a presidential year?” Duffy asked. “It was inevitable that Murphy would attack McMahon regardless of who Romney picked.”