Where Do GOP Candidates Stand on Ryan's Budget?

Written by Tim Mak on Wednesday May 25, 2011

In the wake of the NY-26 special election results, which Republican presidential candidates will prove most vulnerable to the challenges that will come with running on the Paul Ryan budget proposal?

In the wake of the NY-26 special election results, which Republican presidential candidates will prove most vulnerable to the challenges that will come with running on the Paul Ryan budget proposal?

Of the four front-runners to the Republican nomination – Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty – which of the candidates have positioned themselves closest to the Ryan plan? FrumForum took a look at them in descending order of vulnerability:

1. Sarah Palin

Indisputably, Sarah Palin is most vulnerable to charges that she supports the Paul Ryan budget plan, having told CNSNews.com, “I love Paul Ryan’s plan.”

She talked about her support for the Ryan plan in greater detail last week with Eric Bolling of Fox Business:

"I certainly disagree with [Newt Gingrich’s] opinion that Paul Ryan's plan is radical or would be social engineering...We have to remember that Paul Ryan's plan - only a small portion of it has to do with medicare reform and allowing a safety net to continue for our seniors... the rest of his plan, it's good, it's courageous, it's fiscally sound - it's all about saving $1.2 billion a day... Paul Ryan's plan is a good one."

Of the four front-runners, it’s clear that Palin is most exposed on the issue of supporting Ryan’s plan, having never expounded on caveats or criticisms that she might have of the budget proposal.

2. Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney also has his share of exposure on the Ryan plan, releasing a statement in April saying that his and Ryan’s plans for entitlement reform “are on the same page”.

He has created some room to maneuver since then, noting in a mid-April interview with the Orlando Sentinel:

“Chairman Ryan’s plan is not identical, I imagine, to what I will be putting forward in a campaign that will potentially go forward. But it’s the right step. We’re on the same page, to put this agenda out there and to talk about spending restraint, and ways to give future seniors more options and more control over their health care.”

In terms of enthusiasm for the Ryan plan, it appears then that Romney is the second-most vulnerable of the leading four candidates for the Republican nomination.

3. Tim Pawlenty

Tim Pawlenty has been less full-throated in his support for the Ryan plan than both Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney have been. Indeed, his campaign has been careful merely to endorse “the direction” of the plan, which has caused some confusion as to exactly how supportive Pawlenty is of the Ryan budget.

Pawlenty has said that his campaign will come out with its own specific proposals for entitlement reform. In announcing his campaign for president, Pawlenty gave us a sneak-peek – endorsing some of Ryan’s Medicaid ideas, tip-toeing a bit around the Medicare plans, and going further than the Ryan plan on Social Security:

“I'll tell young people the truth that over time and for them only, we're going to gradually raise their Social Security retirement age. And, I'll also tell the truth to wealthy seniors that we will means test Social Security's annual cost-of-living adjustment. Medicare must be also be reformed with "pay for performance" incentives that reward good doctors and wise consumers. And, we need to block grant Medicaid to the states. There, innovative reformers closest to the patients can solve problems and save money.”

Pawlenty’s ambiguity over whether he supports the specifics of the Ryan plan may have caused some confusion, but it has also left him less vulnerable to attack on the matter than Palin or Romney.

4.       Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is clearly the least vulnerable of the top four, mainly because he has publicly opposed the Ryan plan. In fact, last week he appeared to be the Ryan budget’s most adamant critic on the right, calling the budget proposal “too big a jump”, “radical”, and a form of “right-wing social engineering”.

Gingrich later walked that back a bit, saying that “those words were inaccurate and unfortunate”, even going so far as to call Paul Ryan to apologize and telling Fox News that “the budget vote is one that I’m happy to say I would have voted for.”

Even so, he continued to call the plan “radical”, telling bloggers last week that “part of what I'm worried about is compelling people to go through a radical change that has not been tested.” On Bill Bennett’s radio show, he vacillated further by telling Bennett, “I did not say I was for the plan as it currently exists.”

For being the Republican who most publicly criticized the Ryan plan – and being against it before he was for it – Gingrich is probably the least vulnerable to charges that he supports the Ryan budget proposal.