Paul Ryan: A dozen Democrats have told me they support my plan with Ron Wyden to reform Medicare

The left will dismiss Ryan’s claim of bipartisan interest as akin to him saying that all his imaginary liberal friends tell him his plan is super smart, but you don’t have to take Ryan’s word for it. Per an excellent catch by John McCormack at the Weekly Standard, one of Ron Wyden’s own staffers told The Hill a few weeks ago that no fewer than 12 Democratic senators have quietly “expressed interest” in the Ryan/Wyden compromise. And why not? The math is what it is; entitlement reform is coming whether the left wants it or not. Even if they regained their congressional majorities of 2009, what sane Democrat would want their party to bear sole responsibility for reforming Medicare if a fiscal crisis struck? There are probably enough fiscal cons in the GOP to get it through with a little Dem help, so better that they let Republicans take the lead. That way, when the public ends up flipping out over the reforms, it’ll be the Democratic Party that gains politically despite the Blue Dog defections.

“There are a number of Democrats but I don’t want to name their names, because I don’t want to get them in trouble,” he said. “I’ve had 12 come up to me and say, ‘I love what you’re doing with Ron [Wyden],'” he said. As for going public with their support, Ryan said the Democrats told him: “No way, I’ll get killed.”

“I’m not going to out Democrats who I believe are in office, who are favorably disposed to these ideas, for their own sake and for the sake fo getting this consensus realized,” Ryan said at the gathering hosted by Bloomberg View in Manhattan Tuesday morning…

“We hopefully will be in the position to realize this consensus, and include those Erskine Bowles, Ron Wyden, Alice Rivlin Democrats, and bring them into that coalition,” he said…

“Why don’t we stop subsidizing the wealthy, why don’t we stop subsidizing corporations, why don’t we stop corporate welfare?” he asked. “There is an area I think we can get consensus on.”

If Romney wins in November, that clears the way for a few centrist Dems to join Republicans in passing Medicare reform while leaving the rest of the party free to demagogue the measure as a Romney-led wingnut catastrophe, etc. The problem is, once the lefty base has been evicted from the White House, I assume they’ll experience a sense of catalyzing frustration similar to what tea partiers felt circa 2009 — and, like tea partiers, they’ll focus first and foremost on the centrists in their own ranks since they’re still susceptible to their influence. The pressure on centrist Democrats not to defect on entitlement reform for fear of a primary challenge will be enormous, as intense as it could possibly be. And if the left does a crack job of Mediscaring and starts to move public opinion as the bill works its way through Congress, who knows what effect that’ll have on the perfectly lubricated weathervane in the White House?

On the other hand, if Obama wins, that’ll have a complex effect on centrist Democrats. They won’t have to worry quite as much about a disaffected out-of-power lefty base in search-and-destroy mode for apostates, and if a “grand bargain” on entitlements does end up taking shape, it’ll be Obama who takes most of the left’s heat. The question, of course, is whether The One would ever consider making that deal in his “flexible” second term. He got kinda sorta close to a bargain with Boehner last year before getting cold feet, but next time he won’t have to worry about reelection. And if the Senate does turn a bit redder this fall, entitlement reform might be his last chance to add something meaningful to his “legacy” besides taking out Bin Laden. You’d trust a guy who used his first term to drop a new trillion-dollar health-care law on America to clean up Medicare, wouldn’t you?

Here’s Ryan this morning on “Today,” joining the rest of America in feeling weary at O’s “tantrums.”

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