Read Mitt's Lips

After months of leaving practically every element of his policy proposals on the level of abstraction, Mitt Romney has finally offered a bit of clarity. According to his policy director, a President Romney would overturn all of the cuts to Medicare included in the Affordable Care Act, a figure that initially totaled $500 billion but has increased to $700 billion in the three years since the bill became a law. The bulk of these cuts are noncontroversial—Paul Ryan's budget, notably, maintains them—and they don't harm seniors' care one bit, despite Romney's wild claims. But hey, any chance to fear-monger with old white folks about that scary man in the White House, right? As our own Jamelle Bouie wrote today, Romney needs to win a large majority of the elderly vote if he hopes to win in November.

What would it mean to leave Medicare untouched? Ezra Klein dug into the implications of Romney's promise, combined with his other budget plans. You will be shocked, no doubt, to learn that the numbers don't come close to adding up. The Republican nominee has vowed to keep defense spending at 4 percent of GDP while capping all spending at 20 percent of GDP, while leaving both Medicare and Social Security untouched. Per a study by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, that would mean all other aspects of the federal budget would have to be slashed by 40 percent in 2016. That jumps to 57 percent cuts by 2022. Sure, those are average estimations and since Romney has been a cheapskate with details he might spare veteran benefits while decimating environmental projections. But until he offers some specifics, it seems fair to imagine a Romney presidency would do a clean 40 percent slice and dice. 

Klein argues that Romney's budget proposal should be treated as fantasy. "That’s not even remotely plausible," he writes. "The consequences would be catastrophic. The outcry would be deafening. And Romney has shown no stomach for selling such severe cuts." It's certainly true that the public would revolt as practically every government service disappeared. But if this is the platform Romney wants to run on, shouldn't it be treated in serious terms, rather than dismissing it as empty talk? After all, Romney doubled down on draconian measures when he selected Paul Ryan as his running mate. Thought games trying to discern the "real Romney" are a waste of time; the press needs to take him at his word when he says he wants to gut all spending outside the military and entitlements. There should be no question that Romney would run a red line through everything if it were solely up to him and his new partner in fiscal crime. 

So They Say

"The polite way to say why I didn’t have expectations is that I’m an African-American, northeastern Democrat in a safe state. Maybe if I was a Latino from Nevada or San Antonio (laughs)."

Cory Booker, explaining why he doesn't have a headlining role at the National Democratic Convention

Daily Meme: Run Ryan Run! ... Wait. Stop. 

  • Conservatives, it's time to panic! As Politico reports today, Republican operatives think "Romney has taken a risk with Ryan that has only a modest chance of going right—and a huge chance of going horribly wrong."
  • In short, the bedwetting has begun.
  • Sure, Paul Ryan was a "courageous" choice who will make "tough choices." But, "In Washington-speak, 'courage' often means 'folly,' and 'tough choices' means advocating something voters don’t like."
  • The biggest thing voters won't like? Ryan's Medicare plan.
  • Which is putting other Republican candidates, like Scott Brown, in a pickle. 
  • As Steve Benen notes, "GOP candidates and their aides don't know how to run with the 'kill Medicare' guy near the top of the ballot."
  • Which has made Democrats ever more gleeful. As one blogger on DailyKos wrote, "Get ready to have the most fun since 2008. There's nothing like Republicans in disarray to spice things up."
  • As a response to all this fretting, Romney has put the brakes on his novel risk-taking and gone back to his beige politicking roots
  • Because, as Jon Chait writes, "Politically, substance is not Romney’s friend. It’s his enemy."
  • But Bill Kristol—who yelled the loudest for Paul Ryan during the veepstakes—is glad all the Republican operatives are sad. It just proves they are weak and he is right.
  • Despite the hormonal quick-fire change of opinions happening in the Republican Party only four days after the vice-presidential announcement was made, it looks like many are still excited, or at least intrigued, by Ryan. The Koch brothers are delighted, and ready to funnel even more money into the race.  
  • And nobody, on either side, can deny the vice-presidential debate is going to be popcorn-worthy.

What We're Reading

  • Jamelle Bouie writes, "it's never a good thing when your vice presidential pick makes it more likely you’ll lose."
  • Paul Waldman unpacks the terrifying and humorless noise that is Mitt Romney's laugh.

What We're Reading

  • The Priorities USA ad "Understands"—which never aired on television (at least during commerical breaks)—was the most viewed political ad online last week. 
  • Political TV shows and films have a serious crush on the past. 
  • Speaking of popcorn-worthy: Chris Christie is giving the keynote address at the Republican National Convention, and he promises to tell the public "some very direct and hard truths." 
  • Olivier Know reports on the very important dog war between the two campaigns.
  • GQ gets you up to speed (and shows you an illustration you can never unsee) on Ayn Rand, the philosopher formerly known as Paul Ryan's favorite.
  • Photo of the Day: We haven't heard back from PolitiFact yet ... but Obama may be a wizard. 

Poll of the Day

Maybe Ohio Senator Rob Portman wouldn't have been such a terrible choice for Mitt Romney. In a new Public Policy Polling survey, Obama has a slight 48-45 percent edge over Romney. That's close, but things don't look so good for Romney when you dig into the numbers: Forty-one percent approve of Romney, while 52 percent have negative views of the GOP candidate. They aren't particularly enamored with Romney's new running mate, either:  Just 34 percent of Ohioans held favorable thoughts about Paul Ryan, compared to 33 percent who disapproved of the new VP contender.

For more polling information, go to The Prospect’s 2012 election map.

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