The Paul Ryan budget may have sprung the Republican vice presidential candidate to national prominence, but it is not playing out as well in local races throughout the country. The plan, also named, "The Path to Prosperity," served as the basis for legislation passed earlier this year by the House of Representatives (and later rejected by the Democratically-controlled Senate). But criticisms over the plan's steep cuts to Medicare have made it a talking point for Democrats in tough Senate and House races across the country.
In New York State, Democrat Kathy Hochul secured her seat in a special election in a solidly red district last year by tying her opponent, Chris Collins, to the Ryan budget. She's in a tough re-election campaign this year and employing a similar strategy.
Meanwhile in Florida, Republican Allen West has launched an aggressive campaign to defend his vote of the Ryan budget, and Dean Heller in Nevada has come under heavy fire for being the only member of Congress who voted for the budget in both the House and Senate (he was appointed to the Senate last year).
The Ryan budget is at the center of not only the Presidential race, but House and Senate races across the country as well. And this, Zwillich says, is really unusual. "There is hardly a competitive house race in this nation," he says, "Where the Ryan budget isn't a key factor."
"Candidates throughout the country are handling the Ryan budget attacks in different ways," Zwillich says. "Chris Collins is a person trying to get into Congress who recognizes the potential political difficulty of the Ryan budget, says 'I've never said I support it,'" though he does say that he supports parts of it — including the changes to Medicare.
"Now, Florida is full of seniors — a totally different case," Zwillich says. Allen West voted for the Ryan budget, and is now being attacked by his opponent. West is an example of a Republican who uses the Ryan budget as an opportunity to talk about debt.
Will the Ryan budget be enough for Democrats to take back the House? "Probably not," Zwillich says. But it is changing the conversation in races throughout the country.