In a rare break in party discipline, Montana’s Republican party is running ads forcefully condemning the House Republican budget crafted by Paul Ryan that has arguably become the GOP’s defining cause.
The new TV spot “Montana First,” is meant to boost Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), who is in a tough race to unseat Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), praising him for his independence from the party. Rehberg, as the ad notes, was one of the only Republicans to vote against Ryan’s budget last year and a similar fiscal resolution this year.
Rehberg cited Ryan’s most controversial proposal, a plan to reorganize Medicare as a voucher program with less generous benefits over time, as his biggest stumbling block. It’s a particularly sensitive spot for Republicans, who have pushed back hard against Democratic claims that this change would “end Medicare as we know it,” while trying to regain control on the issue by highlighting far less consequential spending changes to Medicare Advantage under President Obama’s health care plan.
“Rehberg refused to support a Republican budget plan that could harm the Medicare plan so many Montana seniors rely on,” the ad’s narrator intones.
It’s an oddly discordant note for the national GOP, who have remained mostly in lockstep behind Ryan, whose rise within the party has made him a popular pick among Republican politicians to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. Democrats are just as eager to tie Romney to the plan, whose combination of cuts to social programs and tax breaks for the wealthy they believe is politically toxic for general election voters.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.