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Paul Ryan
Paul Ryan wondering what hit him?
(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Note yesterday's swing state polling story — Senate battleground polling shows imperative of protecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — in which (via PPP)

McCaskill's Missouri shows the largest divide in surveys done by the Democratically friendly Public Policy Polling, especially on Medicare. When asked, "In order to reduce the national debt, would you support or oppose cutting spending on Medicare, which is the government health insurance program for the elderly?" just 19 percent of respondents said they would, while an overwhelming 77 percent said they would oppose cuts.

Similarly, 20 percent back cuts in Brown's Ohio, while 76 percent oppose them. In Tester's Montana, it's 24 percent favoring cuts and 71 percent against. Just 26 percent of Minnesotans would want Klobuchar to vote to cut Medicare, while 69 percent say to vote against.

Why did the GOP ignore common sense and run some extra juice through the Medicare third rail and then gleefully and eagerly step on it? How could they have exercised such colossally bad judgment?

That's the question that has been making the rounds the last few days and still hasn't been answered. It's going to be brought up again because of the NY-26 special election today (plenty of coverage all through the day here), but look at some of today's stories:

Gene Robinson:

What should worry Republicans is that the biggest issue in the campaign — practically the only issue — is Ryan’s Medicare plan. [R Jane] Corwin supports it, [D Kathy] Hochul opposes it, and the GOP may well lose a race that shouldn’t even be close.

Even if Corwin pulls out a victory — the national party has poured in buckets of money, allowing her to outspend Hochul by more than 2-to-1, and grandees such as House Speaker John Boehner have rushed in to campaign on her behalf — the fact that she is in such a tight battle is a dire omen for her party. Have I mentioned that all but four House Republicans have not just endorsed, but actually voted for, the Ryan plan?

Roll Call covers the Senate vote:
The Senate vote this week on the budget blueprint of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will be a gut-check moment for Republicans, who risk angering constituents no matter what they do.
Politico had a story on the GOP running from the issue yesterday, and today goes with GOP braces for Medicare blowback:
And on the Senate floor later this week, Democrats are planning to force a vote on the 2012 budget proposal offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other top Democrats want to put Senate Republicans on the record voting for — or against — the Ryan proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher program for seniors. Already, a few moderate Republicans — the latest being Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have bailed on it or look ready to jump.

For Democrats, these crystallizing moments would affirm that their Medicare-centric attacks are working — and that they’re on the popular side of a major policy issue, maybe for the first time since the rise of the tea party movement two years ago. For moderate and vulnerable Republicans, these events have the potential to create a lot of hand-wringing and second-guessing for a party that’s been on a roll.

That's Scott Brown, as in Scott Brown vetoes Scott Brown, says no to Republican Medicare plan. Brown is so visible, he drew this rebuke from Joe Walsh (R-Ill):
An Illinois Republican on Monday said Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) should be "ashamed of himself" for opposing Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget plan.
But the question is still out there for Walsh and the other Republicans: why did they do it?

Ezra Klein tackled some good theories, including this insight:

They believed that the details would matters less than their conviction. That is to say, being seen as “making hard choices” would be more popular than the choices themselves would be unpopular.
reminiscent of Bush-era "we make our own reality," but his contrast between a weak John Boehner and a strong Nancy Pelosi is my favorite:
But ultimately, this seems like a failure at the top. Boehner didn’t have the trust of his caucus and he wasn’t secure in his position and so he couldn’t play the strategic role that normally falls to the leader. The comparison with Nancy Pelosi is instructive here, as she was very trusted by the liberal wing of the party, and so she was able to persuade them to drop ideas, like the public option, that she eventually concluded were undermining larger objectives.
That's a nice way of saying the tea party inmates are running the asylum, and as of now it's the best guess as to why the Republicans have shot themselves in the head over the Ryan Medicare plan. But I'll let Steve Benen (who asked the same question, what were they thinking?) summarize:
What a fiasco. The party backed a wildly-unpopular plan, reinvigorated Democrats, and the right-wing base isn’t especially impressed anyway. All the GOP has to look forward to are attack ads and severe electoral setbacks.
And the most interesting observation of all? The media and the public are not buying the GOP spin.
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