Leadership Avoids Ryan Budget As Political Minefield, But Key GOPers Say Go For It!

Republican leadership for days has been backing away from Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap” budget – which slashes Social Security and Medicare to end the deficit – but key GOP groups say it’s both bold and brave.

“It’s commendable and very true to his conservative beliefs,” former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin told TPMDC in an interview.

“I think it’s fabulous, it’s a great template for everyone that’s not just relying on smoke and mirrors,” said Holtz-Eakin, who was an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.He’s not alone – the conservative Club for Growth and Republican Study Committee have lauded Ryan’s roadmap, while stopping short of saying it should be the official Republican budget.

“You can’t even talk seriously about the debt, deficit, or a balanced budget without fundamentally reforming entitlement programs,” Club for Growth spokesman Mike Connolly told me this week after Rep. Jeb Hensarling said he supported the Ryan plan.

“Every candidate will have to decide for himself what issues to campaign on this year, but if Republicans want to show the American people they can be trusted with leadership again, attacking the Democrats isn’t enough,” Connolly added. “The times cry out for a bold agenda of conservative economic reform, and for politicians like Jeb Hensarling who can articulate one.”

Democrats have seized on the Ryan roadmap to paint Republicans as returning to Social Security privatization plans, even though leaders insist this won’t be in their 2010 playbook.

Holtz-Eakin told me that the politicking and fear of retribution at the polls is what’s made entitlement reform so tough.

“Both sides have to find a way to move past demagoguing. Partisan legislation is never very good,” he said.

Conservative commentators also are defending Ryan.