Ithaca Journal: New York Republicans embrace VP selection

Brian Tumulty

August 19, 2012

You can call it the Ryan Factor.

From the Hudson Valley to western New York, Republican congressional candidates have issued accolades since Mitt Romney’s announcement that he has selected Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his presidential running mate.

New York Republicans say the choice will help them highlight the fiscal problems the nation faces.

“He’s a compelling choice for vice president,” said freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth, of Bedford, Westchester County. “And he is a terrific leader, very principled man. He cares about the opportunity for every American to reach the potential and to reach the dream that should belong to them. We have to have a growth-promoting economy. We have to have a growth-promoting federal budget.’’

Democrats say Ryan’s presence on the ballot will help them explain to voters the spending cuts and tax cuts envisioned by the GOP.

Freshman Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul, of Erie County, won a special election last year in large part by campaigning against Ryan’s proposal for overhauling Medicare.

Ryan chairs the House Budget Committee, which last year and again this year offered a blueprint for future federal spending that would convert Medicare into an insurance premium support program. The plan would apply in the future to those now under age 55.

Hochul said that having Ryan as Romney’s running mate will bring “a sense of clarity” to the policy differences between Republicans and Democrats running for the White House and Congress.

“I am focused on this race, but the larger national debate will be in play at this local level as it did when I won my special election a year ago,” Hochul said. “Those same issues are out there again.”

Either way, the relatively unknown congressman from Janesville, Wis., and his policy proposals are shaping up to be an often-discussed factor in New York’s competitive House races this campaign season.

A USA Today/Gallup poll taken a day after Romney’s announcement found 58 percent of the 1,006 Americans surveyed never heard of Ryan.

That’s not as high as the 71 percent who had not heard of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin a day after her selection as Sen. John McCain’s Republican running mate in 2008.

But it is higher than the 51 percent who were unfamiliar with then-Sen. Joe Biden, of Delaware, when Barack Obama selected him as his Democratic running mate the same year.

Chris Collins, a former Erie County executive running as Hochul’s Republican challenger, said the most immediate impact of the selection is that it was made relatively early and allows for 12 full weeks of campaigning on the issues.

“I will proudly carry the Romney-Ryan banner,” Collins said, charging that Hochul has distanced herself from Obama and “doesn’t even want to admit she’s a Democrat.”

Freshman Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, of Onondaga, who political handicappers rate as the most vulnerable Republican member of the New York congressional delegation, said Ryan’s presence on the national ticket will help her party dispute the false allegations that have been made about his budget plan.

“I think that we are now going to have a discussion about the issues,” Buerkle said. “There could not have been a starker contrast. Until the Ryan choice, it seemed like we were focused on the president’s failures. But now we are going to be talking about solutions.”

Hayworth said Republicans will have the opportunity to discuss the Medicare spending reductions that Democrats enacted as part of their 2010 health care legislation and compare them to the reforms Republicans advocate.

Hayworth thinks senior citizens will prefer the GOP’s approach.

“It’s not a voucher program; it’s premium support,” Hayworth said, accusing Democrats of “an attempt to create hysterics.”

An estimated eight to 11 of New York’s 27 congressional districts have competitive races this year.

Outside advocacy groups are lining up to back candidates of both major parties.

The House Majority PAC, which supports Democratic House candidates, already has booked $600,000 in television and cable ads for the fall in the Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse markets, according to spokesman Andy Stone.

Stone said the group also plans to spend money in the Hudson Valley’s two competitive House races and has established a separate account for New York races with a goal of raising $6 million.

Brook Hougesen, spokeswoman for the Congressional Leadership Fund affiliated with House Republican Majority Leader John Boehner, said the GOP also sees New York as an important battleground for House races.

“There are significantly more opportunities to win than originally expected,” she said, declining to estimate how much money Republican advocacy groups might spend. “We’re not going to get into our specific strategic decisions.”