Mitt Romney’s pick of Congressional budget hawk Paul Ryan as his running mate could leave the campaign with tough questions to answer with key Jewish constituencies this fall.
The selection of Ryan, the hotshot 42-year-old congressman from Wisconsin whose proposals for a trimmed-down federal budget have made him a household name, seems to have excited Republicans.
But one early attack in a congressional race in a heavily Jewish Florida district suggests that Democrats will use Ryan’s proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security to bolster Democratic support among Jewish voters.
Just an hour after Romney first appeared with Ryan on Saturday morning, the Florida Democratic congressional campaign of Lois Frankel sent a press release tying her presumptive Republican opponent to Ryan’s proposed entitlement cuts.
Florida’s 22nd Congressional District is in the heart of Jewish South Florida, potentially a key neighborhood in the presidential race. Florida is the largest of the swing states, and its 22nd CD is the district where Jewish votes could have the biggest effect on the outcome of the presidential election.
Even a modest pickup for Romney among South Florida Jews has the potential to swing the state, and possibly the presidential election.
Frankel, who is expected to win the party primary in the district next week, asserted that the presumptive Republican nominee Adam Hasner had voiced support for Ryan’s budget plan. Then she went on to tie Hasner to Ryan – rather than to Romney – in her attack.
“The choice Florida seniors have in this election has just become even clearer,” Frankel wrote in her statement. “Will we let Adam Hasner and his champion Paul Ryan destroy Medicare and replace guaranteed benefits with a voucher program?”
Ryan’s budget plan would leave Medicare untouched for a decade, at which point seniors would be given a private Medicare option.
In his speech announcing his selection of Ryan, Mitt Romney was careful to distance himself from Ryan’s proposals to limit entitlement spending. “Unlike the current president, who has cut Medicare funding by $700 billion, we will preserve and protect Medicare and Social Security and keep them there for future generations,” Romney said this morning.
And Romney supporters say that they expect Jewish voters to applaud Ryan’s selection.
“Most people can find something wrong that they dislike with the Ryan budget, but by and large people will appreciate the fact that he had the courage and the guts to try and fix the problem,” said Lee Cowen, a D.C. political consultant and Romney supporter. “Our country cant continue down the path of continually spending on everything that feels good and sounds right.”
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.