The Republicans most likely to vie for the chance to take on President Obama next year are, as a group, pleased with the new House budget proposal introduced Tuesday by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
The contenders break down into two groups: candidates who are ready to sign on to the more controversial aspects of the budget bill, such as the plans to eliminate Medicare and Medicaid as we know it.
Among the pleased-but-still looking: Tim Pawlenty and Mitch Daniels. The “let’s do this thing” crowd includes Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Haley Barbour and Sarah Palin. Those who haven’t weighed in yet include Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann.
Romney, the presumptive frontrunner among the undeclared candidates, told reporters in a statement that he’s behind Ryan’s plans all the way.
“He is setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control,” Romney said. “Anyone who has read my book knows that we are on the same page.”
Pawlenty, who’s the most official of the Republican candidates so far, said there was still “several months” of debate on the plans “to come.” Rather than offer the ringing endorsement that Romney did, Pawlenty simply said “the American people finally have someone offering real leadership in Washington” after Ryan’s plan was released.
Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana and President George W. Bush’s budget guy, didn’t sign on to the specifics either.
“The House budget resolution is the first serious proposal produced by either party to deal with the overriding issue of our time,” Daniels said in a statement. “The national debt we are amassing threatens the livelihood and the liberty of every single American, and in particular the life prospects of our young people.”
Daniels didn’t comment on Medicaid or Medicare specifically, but said “anyone criticizing this plan without offering a specific and equally bold program of his own has failed in the public duty to be honest and clear with Americans about the gravest danger we are facing together.”
Sarah Palin, who often makes her views known in long, detailed Facebook posts, took to Twitter to offer succinct general support for the Ryan plan. She linked to a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which she offered wholehearted support for Ryan’s last budget plan, known as “the roadmap.” It includes many of the same controversial provisions regarding entitlements.
Mike Huckabee, who’s polling strong, though his 2012 intentions are still in doubt, offered his support for the plan but cautioned supporters not to fall too deep in love.
“It’s doubtful the House’s proposal will be passed in its current form, and it’s unlikely that this one proposal will be the ultimate solution to all of our economic problems,” Huckabee wrote on his website. “But Congressman Ryan’s proposal is certainly a start - one that I support as a small step to restoring fiscal sanity and reducing the size of government.”
Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS), who’s the past chair of the RGA as well as a potential candidate, joined in praising the plan and the changes it makes to the nation’s entitlement system. Barbour co-signed a joint statement from the RGA that had nothing but praise.
“Medicaid reform is welcome and the Republican Governors overwhelmingly support the creation of a Medicaid block grant program,” the governors wrote. “This well established approach will give states the freedom to innovate, share best practices, and create cost-effective ways to deliver quality health care to our most vulnerable populations.”
Down near the bottom of the presidential contender list (polling-wise) is Santorum, who likened Ryan’s plan to the welfare reform efforts of the 1990s. He made sure his supporters know where he stands on Ryan’s entitlement reforms.
“I also believe the Republicans’ approach to reforming Medicare is right on target to streamline the program, reduce waste and allow future Medicare beneficiaries to have more of a say in the needs of their benefits with a market driven approach,” Santorum said.