David Frum

05.01.12

Blame Ryan?

Jon Karl has a curious interview up this morning with Paul Ryan.

At one point, Karl asks Ryan whether he agrees with Speaker Boehner's assessment that Republicans face a 1 in 3 chance of losing their House majority. 

Ryan said yes, whether because he genuinely agreed, or because invoking that risk is useful for fundraising for Republican candidates.

Karl followed up by asking Ryan whether he wasn't worried that—in such a case—Republicans would blame him and his budget for the defeat.

It's a logical question: after all, the individual items in the budget poll poorly; the one special election fought since the plan was unveiled ended in an painful Republican defeat at the hands of a Democrat who made the plan a campaign issue.

Yet Ryan seemed unprepared for Karl's question. He offered a series of answers that amounted either to excuses or non-sequitors: eg, Republicans are not saying that they blame him; he expected the plan to be vilified; he is in politics to make a difference; etc.

Karl's question was left hanging in the air. Do Republicans seriously worry about losing the House? If so, will that prompt any self-reflection about the way they have managed their new majority—not only the Ryan budget, but the near-forcing of a default last summer to gain their way in budget negotiations, etc. etc. etc.? Ryan stammers "no" now, but offers no convincing reason to accept his self-assessment. Let's check with him again after the event, if it happens.