The Washington Post‘s Dan Balz has a great column up on why what happened in New York’s 26th congressional district Tuesday is a problem for the Republican Party. The defeat of the GOP candidate (in a conservative district, no less) just goes to show that the party, by putting in a bid to overhaul Medicare as part of a larger deficit cutting plan, “plunged into a debate over entitlements reform without a strategy for winning the battle for public opinion.” The public, it turns out, likes its Medicare, and even if voters understand that it’s going broke and needs to be reformed – Democrats, take note; you can’t duck this issue forever – they don’t like Rep. Paul Ryan’s drastic plan to turn it into a semi-private voucher program. By getting out ahead of public opinion, says Balz, Republicans have handed the Democrats a winning issue just when the GOP looked to have the upper hand going into 2012. Something similar happened in 2005, when George W. Bush killed himself politically by floating a plan to privatize Social Security, a strategic blunder that teed up big Democratic gains in the 2006 midterms.The big message out of Tuesday for Republicans? Back to school: “They have accepted the responsibility to propose. Now they will need to learn how to persuade.” If the idea is to stick with the Ryan plan, they’ll have their work cut out for them.
• Will Republicans learn the lesson of NY-26 loss? [Dan Balz, The Washington Post]