Andrea Mitchell Labels GOP Medicare Reform Proposal a 'Tar Baby'

Talking to political strategist Stu Rothenberg on her 1PM ET hour show on MSNBC on Friday, anchor Andrea Mitchell saw the Medicare reform proposal in Congressman Paul Ryan's 2012 budget as a major negative for the GOP: "Obviously the White House feels very good right now....it's sort of like a tar baby situation where they're loving the fact that the Republicans are now voting on Medicare cuts."

In response, Rothenberg argued: "For the last year, the political debate has been about the President and about the President's performance. And now Democrats can breathe a sigh of relief and say, 'Ah, now we have something to shoot at, it's about Republicans.'" He later added: "I think the Democrats are much more comfortable with the comparison between the Democrats' performance and the Republican proposals."

Mitchell followed up by wondering if it was even possible for the Republican proposal to not to be a political disaster: "Is there a scenario, though, where the Republicans will get credit with independent voters, where elections are won and lost, for doing something? And that this Medicare – the Medicare tar baby, if you will, won't really be such a negative?"

Rothenberg did see a possible political advantage: "I think it's possible. And I think we don't know....if we have an economic double dip, if we have increasing unemployment, I think the focus will be on the President's performance and back on Barack Obama and then the Republicans will say, 'See, we need a dramatic change.'"

He went on: "...the Democrats are counting that the Republican proposal is too dramatic, too radical, too extreme, as they say. But if voters are dissatisfied with the President's performance come November 2012, they may be willing to take a chance on the Republican message of change."


Here is a transcript of the April 15 exchange:

1:35PM ET

(...)

ANDREA MITCHELL: Obviously the White House feels very good right now. They seem to be relishing this fight. They – it's sort of like a tar baby situation where they're loving the fact that the Republicans are now voting on Medicare cuts.

STU ROTHENBERG: Right.

MITCHELL: And it's more than cuts, it's a complete restructuring of Medicare.

ROTHENBERG: For the last year, the political debate has been about the President and about the President's performance. And now Democrats can breathe a sigh of relief and say, 'Ah, now we have something to shoot at, it's about Republicans.'

Remember those people last year who said the Republicans needed to present an alternative and their agenda, and the Republicans generally didn't before the election? That was because they were smart, they understood they needed the election – the midterm to be about the President.

But now they're climbing out on the limb, whether it's Medicare, Medicaid, overall spending. And I think the Democrats are much more comfortable with the comparison between the Democrats' performance and the Republican proposals.

MITCHELL: Is there a scenario, though, where the Republicans will get credit with independent voters, where elections are won and lost, for doing something? And that this Medicare – the Medicare tar baby, if you will, won't really be such a negative?

ROTHENBERG: I think it's possible. And I think we don't know, because there are going to be so many events between now and November of 2012. We don't know how the President's going to react, or the Republicans are going to react, or what the economic news is going to be.

But sure, if we have an economic double dip, if we have increasing unemployment, I think the focus will be on the President's performance and back on Barack Obama and then the Republicans will say, 'See, we need a dramatic change.'

And, yes, the Democrats are counting that the Republican proposal is too dramatic, too radical, too extreme, as they say. But if voters are dissatisfied with the President's performance come November 2012, they may be willing to take a chance on the Republican message of change.

— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC