The greatest gift the GOP gave Democrats this cycle was the bizarre decision of almost every single Congressional Republican to embrace the Paul Ryan (R-WI) Medicare privatization plan. Medicare privatization is deeply unpopular, especially with seniors, the group most likely to vote. This foolish push by Republicans has also done wonders to repair the damage done to the relationship between Democrats and seniors caused by the Affordable Care Act.
Rank and file Democratic incumbents and candidates could conceivably ride the Medicare privatization issue to victory in 2012, just as they did in 2006 after George Bush attempted to privatize Social Security. As a result, Mitch McConnell has said that Medicare cuts must be a part of any “grand bargain” on the debt ceiling.
Unfortunately, many news outlets are now reporting that President Obama is actively trying to hand over this political edge to the GOP in order to get a debt ceiling deal. From Politico:
For their part, Obama and Reid appear prepared to reach much higher, putting substantial Medicare savings on the table if Republicans would accept added revenues. With the House GOP leadership in New York, all of Monday’s White House maneuvering was Senate-centric. But Obama’s hope is that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), with whom he met privately last week, will be intrigued by a bolder package that might also help neutralize the Medicare issue now hurting the GOP among elderly voters.
Getting Republicans to sign onto a deal could enhance Obama’s personal brand. It would show him to be a serious “deficit hawk,” able to rise above partisan politics and cut a deal. But he would be helping himself at the expense of everyone else in the party. By giving the Republicans the political “out” they want on Medicare privatization, Obama could be dealing a devastating blow to everyone else in his own party who hoped to use the Ryan vote against their GOP opponents in 2012.
President Barack Obama talks with Chief of Staff Bill Daley in the Cross Hall of the White House, March 3, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)