Now that two months have passed since the 2012 election, what does Rep. Paul Ryan think the voters' message was?
"I don't see this [election result] as a rejection of our principles," Ryan said at a Wall Street Journal breakfast.
Meanwhile, though, Ryan has a daunting new assignment that may make that message even more difficult to sell. He's been charged by House Speaker John A. Boehner with drawing up a new budget that will erase the federal deficit within 10 years (the first Ryan budget, written in 2011, needed 30 years) solely through spending cuts -- no new tax revenues allowed.
That means Ryan's next budget will require even more dramatic cuts in "entitlements" -- Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- than the last one.
"We’re going to have to have a big debate in this country about how to cut spending in an intelligent way," he said.
But it has Democrats licking their chops, because it will make Ryan's Republicans look like the party of big Medicare cuts -- again.
If Ryan's new budget gets specific on Medicare cuts, some Democrats will doubtless use it as an excuse for demagoguery -- even though President Obama has acknowledged that bringing the deficit under control requires trimming projected Medicare spending.
With luck, though, centrist Democrats will see a new Ryan budget as giving them running room to propose less draconian (and more realistic) Medicare reforms.
In any case, Ryan's response is: Bring it on.
"Our job, as we see it, is to get spending under control, to get some entitlement reforms, to make sure we don't have a debt crisis," he said.
Besides, he added, with Congress' approval rating around 15%, we don't have much to lose, do we?"