Democrat Ron Wyden: Mitt Romney’s true running mate?

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    Three men and a baby was a fun movie: How will it play as three men and a bipartisan baby of a Medicare fix.

    by Paul Goldman

    The Mainstream Media, including the left of center Talk shows, are focusing on Paul Ryan’s original Medicare Plan: let’s call it Ryan Medicare 1.0. The liberal bloggosphere and Democratic campaign gurus didn’t need any medical weed from the West Coast to get high this time: They are Cloud Ryan, higher than Cloud 9 [by the way, why is it Cloud 9? Anybody know?).

    BUT: The original 1.0 has been replaced since last year by Ryan-Wyden Medicare 2.0.

    The “Wyden” being liberal Democratic Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon.

    Late last year, the two of them reached a widely reported  “compromise” on the Medicare issue. Indeed, Wyden’s joining with Ryan was regarded as “traitorous” on the left in some quarters and earned him a stern rebuke from key players in the White House according to press reports out West if I remember correctly.

    The reason Democrats were so upset: It gave Ryan a political “Get Out of Blunderville” free card.

    As best I can remember – to lazy to look it up – the “compromise” was simply this: instead of doing away with traditional Medicare as we know it (the original Ryan plan) in the future, the Republican leader agreed that seniors would always have the option of the traditional Medicare program if they didn’t want to join the new “free market plans” envisioned by what passes for conservative thinking these days.

    In terms of basic politics, the Ryan-Wyden “split the baby”. Each side gets what it wants for the future. “Liberals” get government-administered Medicare program forever for those who wanted it. “Conservatives get their private plans as an officially sanctioned alternative based on their voucher approach.  

    Does this seem, as Dr. Sabato likes to say, “two clever by half?”

    Yes. It seems too easy a fix for such a big problem. AND IT IS.

    But with 90 days left in a campaign, it is all about political optics.

    The Medicare Trust Fund is, to put it politely, a challenged fiscal entity. The President has already said that, it is old news.

    So both sides stipulate, as they say in court, that a growing fiscal problem exists.

    That’s the easy part of the debate.

    How to fix it is the hard part.

    If the Medicare debate is over Ryan Medicare. 1.0, is a slam dunk for the Democrats. And to the extent this is a predictor of how the campaign will go, Obama is a sure winner.

    BUT: If the Medicare debate is over the Ryan-Wyden Medicare 2.0 bipartisan plan, then, as they say on Kentucky Derby day, you may have a real horse race.

    Wyden has a lot of credibility on senior health issues, we are talking about a very respected guy in his state with huge street cred. This is a senior Democrat on key committees who has put his reputation on the line here.

    When he signed onto the Ryan-Wyden Medicare 2.0, the former leader of the Gray Panthers in his state knew he was risking the ire of his party in seeming to take Ryan off a big political hook.

    But he surely never figured it would wind-up as a possible key fork in the road in the Presidential campaign.

    FOR if Romney can use Ryan-Wyden Medicare 2.0 to bridge the gap on fiscal issues/health care and establish Paul Ryan as a credible conservative thinker with ideas to the independent swing voter, then this is a potential game changer.

    So: What is Senator Ron Wyden going to do?

    I think that is self-evident: If he were to switch now and back away from his deal with Ryan, his reputation would be ruined. What’s the up side?

    So if the Ryan-Wyden Medicare 2.0 gets a basic “That might work, at least the Republicans are willing to try and reach across the aisle for a bipartisan solution” from the swing voters, it would force Democrats to go back to the drawing board on campaign strategy.

    Sure, the plan can be attacked. But the public will want to know: What is your plan to fix what you have admitted is a big looming fiscal problem? At that point, it would be a debate on Romney’s best turf or at least potentially so.

    Romney may have picked Ryan as a ticket mate. But he is running with Senator Wyden right now.