And the scare tactics stopped working.
Look at what just happened earlier this month in the recent special elections next door in Nevada and out in New York. The Democrats threw every scare tactic they could think of at the Republican candidates running in two special elections for vacant House seats. But the attacks failed to connect with voters hungry for solutions. The Republican candidates prevailed.
Now, certainly, there were some mitigating factors in these races. The economy is unquestionably at the forefront of the nation's concerns, and the President's unpopularity definitely played a role.
And in Brooklyn - the race to replace former-Congressman Anthony Weiner - well, I don't want to get into all the factors that influenced that race. As Peter Robinson reminded me this morning before we taped his program, "If you want to talk about the New York race, just remember that this is a family show."
But the point is that we should not fear false attacks again in 2012.
This is pretty bold advice given the evidence. True, the Democrats attack campaign of the spring and early summer has since taken a back seat to things like the Anthony Weiner scandal and partisan fights over the debt limit and jobs. But President Obama has pledged to make Ryan's vision -- and particularly his plan to phase out traditional Medicare and replace it with a subsidized private insurance system -- a major focus of the election.
So Ryan's budget will come back into political focus as the day-to-day on Capitol Hill recedes in the media and is replaced by the 2012 campaign. And as far as using special elections as a litmus test goes, as Ryan admits the record's pretty mixed. Jane Corwin got creamed over her support for the plan, leading Kathy Hochul's victory in upstate New York. And the GOP candidate who took Anthony Weiner's old seat didn't actually support it.
It's a big gamble. But it underlines the GOP's seriousness about fundamentally changing retirement policies for seniors and the poor in the months and years ahead. As Ryan himself noted, speaking of federal health care programs, "you have to revisit the structure of federal health policy and change the incentives - something that many leading Democrats, with their unwavering commitment to early 20th Century social insurance models, remain totally unwilling to do."