Allen weaves his way through the politics of the Ryan plan
It is the first major battle of the 2012 campaign and George Allen is smack dab in the middle of it. The fallout from Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan‘s budget plan, that includes an overhaul to Medicare, was considered at least a part of what destroyed the campaign of an Upstate NY candidate in a special congressional election.
In the wake of its impact on the NY-26 campaign, both sides are using the passionate feelings about the delicate issue as a tool to prop up and beat down candidates running in 2012.
For most it is a simple question: Would you support the Ryan plan if elected? For Republicans, the answer is usually “yes”, for Democrats a definite “no”. Few though are in the difficult position that George Allen is. While he is running as a Republican he faces a fierce challenge on the right from several candidates who subscribe to the Tea Party mantra. His primary opponents have no problem supporting Ryan, because their niche bases are fully on board.
For instance: Jaime Radtke, a former Tea Party leader, she is a “yes” and even sent Allen a letter asking for clarification on his stance.
And Tim Donner, he too is a “yes“.
But Allen, rarely mentions his primary opponents by name and talks more like he is running a general election. While hard-core republicans are supportive of the Ryan plan the public at large is a little less enthusiastic. That soft support puts Allen in a position where he clearly doesn’t feel comfortable saying “yes” or “no”, primarily because it puts him in a no-win situation. A “no” vote could incite the ire of the Tea Party wing of the party, a “yes” vote could be a tool used against him in a general election.
So instead, Allen puts up with questions about the Ryan plan, but won’t tell any reporter, specifically, how he would cast his vote.
Believed me, I tried.
“I’m not going to tell you,” Allen said stopping short before re-grouping, and responding “I’m going to tell you what I am for.”
As soon as I began a lengthy exchange on the Ryan plan, Allen made sure I knew what he thought about the line of questioning.
“You can ask for the Democrats, they like playing politics,” he said.
Allen contends that marginalizing his stance on just “yes” or “no” doesn’t really tell the whole story.
“For the democrats to carry on about this though is so disingenuous,” he said. “If they don’t like Ryan’s plan, if they don’t like my plan or anybody else’s plan of action come up with something. They have not even passed a budget for two years. This is the height of hypocrisy.”
Like many republicans in a tough spot with the controversial plan, Allen likes parts of Ryan’s proposal, but believes he can approve upon it. When I asked if that meant a “no” vote, he told me it was not that simple.
“I think you ought to be open to a variety of ideas that are coming forward and discuss them with the American people,” he said. ” Most people aren’t familiar with any of these proposals right now.”
And even though he could be hit with the question many times between now and election day, the man who has dealt with the parsing of his words for political benefit for almost 20 years seems content to not get trapped this time.
“I am not a U.S. Senator,” he reminded me. “If I were a U.S. Senator I would have to vote yes or no.”
The entire discussion on the Ryan proposal can been seen below: