Week In Politics: N.Y. Special Election; 2012 Presidential Race
NORRIS: While the president's been overseas, both Democrats and Republicans have been spinning the results of one special congressional election. At issue, the meaning of the Democrats' victory in the upstate New York race.
NORRIS: The message the American people sent yesterday was loud and clear. They said no to the Republicans' plan to end Medicare.
NORRIS: The Medicare take away from this is that Democrats are happy to shamelessly distort and demagogue the issue to try and scare seniors to win an election.
NORRIS: You just heard Republican Congressman Paul Ryan. His plan to privatize Medicare became a central focus in the race in New York's 26th district. We also heard Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Democrat. And joining us now are our regular Friday political observers to give us their take on all this, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times. Welcome to both of you.
M: Good to be with you.
NORRIS: E.J., I'm going to begin with you this week. Was that the voice of the American people we heard out of New York this week, as Senator Reid asserted, or is this just a lot of political hyperbole?
M: It turned out that a lot of the people who voted Republican were not part of that very conservative part of the country. They were middle of the roaders who had not bargained on the Ryan budget or Governor Kasich's program or Governor Walker's program. And they're sending a message and they sent a loud one when they voted for Kathy Hochul.
NORRIS: David, so E.J. is saying that this is a misread of a Republican mandate. The Democrats seem to be saying that they're doing well on these special elections at the House level, even at the state level. And the new DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, said that this election turned on what she called the Republicans' "hardcore radical right-wing agenda." She said Republicans should take the signal, sit down with Democrats, start to negotiate some sort of Medicare compromise. Is hers a correct reading of those results? And is there a path to compromise here?
M: So the central message is, if you try to cut entitlement programs in order to reduce the debt, you'll get hurt. And that's what's happened and that's what's always happened.
NORRIS: Is it possible that members of both parties will pay a steep price here if this perception continues, whether or not it's true, that jobs creation is taking a backseat to gridlock over this Medicare debate?
M: But, I just want to say, on Medicare, this wasn't just about cuts on Medicare, this was about the Ryan proposal to fundamentally get rid of the old Medicare and turn it into subsidized private insurance. That just won't fly. That's different from trying to contain medical costs.
NORRIS: Should we assume that a governor from a big state will automatically shake up the candidate pool?
M: I would say this week sort of belongs to Jon Huntsman. Among those who talk about those things, the former governor of Utah, his stock has suddenly risen and I would say he seems to have entered the big three of Huntsman, Pawlenty and Romney.
M: But the Republican race now is like the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Anybody can enter, anybody can win. And I think that the field is so cut up, Republican opinion is so divided that it's hard to rule out anybody as having a possibility of winning...
NORRIS: That's an amazing statement you made - anybody can win. Is that true?
M: Well, I don't mean the general election, I do mean the nomination.
M: It's not true, by the way. Only Pawlenty, Romney and Huntsman can win. All the rest are in there for fun.
NORRIS: We'll have to leave it at that. Thanks to both of you, happy Memorial Day.
M: And you, too.
M: You, too.
NORRIS: That's David Brooks of The New York Times and E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post.
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