By the time they're done with him, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich will look like a leading Democratic spokesman as the party moves quickly to harness his attacks on Republican plans to change Medicare. According to party sources, they plan to use Gingrich's assault on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's plan in a bid to knock down every Republican who voted for it.
"By calling Paul Ryan's budget 'radical' and 'right-wing social engineering,' Newt merely echoed criticisms millions of Americans across the political spectrum have voiced at house Republicans' budget for weeks now," says Ryan Rudominer, a Democratic consultant and former spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "So while Gingrich may now have as good a chance as me of winning the Republican nomination, those of us on the left can at least be thankful that he made Paul Ryan's 'radical' budget to gut Medicare and provide billions in tax breaks for big oil companies the new litmus test in the Republican Party," adds Rudominer.
Groups like DCCC, the Democratic National Committee and the House Majority PAC are looking at ways to use ads and Internet campaigns to warn voters that the Ryan plan the GOP favors is so bad that even conservative Gingrich, the former House speaker, hates it.
The DNC, for example, has put a video on YouTube that suggests he backed away from his attack on Ryan's plan because supporting Ryan's Medicare reform is a GOP "litmus test." [Read: Democrats Play Offense With Medicare in NY 26]
Others are looking to use his words against Republican House members.
The House Majority PAC, for example, ran ads during Easter Recess assailing lawmakers who voted for the Ryan budget, charging that they would "essentially end Medicare." The ads were effective, but many Democrats were struggling to find a new way to hit the GOP when Gingrich's comments landed in their lap.
Said a Democratic strategist: "Democrats have already been painting Republicans as a bunch of extremists hell bent on killing Medicare. The only challenge now for Democratic ad makers is figuring out whether to be more thankful for Speaker Gingrich's rare moment of candor in which he slammed Paul Ryan's budget and defended Medicare or the resulting outrage and pile-on from the right for his doing so."
Not so fast, say Republicans. They say they are ready for a debate on Medicare, claiming that the Democrats would do nothing to fix the program and that it would die from a lack of funds.
Paul Lindsay, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said, "The only former speaker who will have an impact on 2012 House races is Nancy Pelosi, who continues to spearhead her party's plan to bankrupt Medicare and empower unelected bureaucrats to threaten seniors' access to treatment."
The NRCC has their own ad campaign that charges Democrats like President Obama would effectively gut Medicare. Said a party leadership official, "This is debate we can bring to a tie."