The Republican-led House will vote on Ryan's 2012 spending plan Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours after Congress signed off on a final budget for 2011. It calls for major cuts in domestic spending and an overhaul of Medicare and Medicaid, shrinking budget deficits by $1.6 trillion in the next decade.
President Obama laid out his own long-term budget plan on Wednesday, in a speech that also drew a sharp contrast with that Republican vision. He called for $4 trillion in deficit reduction but in a way that shored up entitlement programs, and raised taxes for higher earners to pre-Bush levels.
As he kicked off his campaign Thursday, Obama more explicitly put the deficit debate into a political context.
"I don't believe in shrinking America. That's not who we are. That's not what made America great," Obama told Democratic donors at a Chicago restaurant. "I don't want a smaller America for Malia and Sasha, for your kids, for your grandkids. I want a big, generous, energized, optimistic country."
With his ultimate Republican foe unknown at this point, Obama offered Ryan as a stand-in.
"This is the same guy that voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill -- but wasn't paid for. So it's not on the level," he said at another event, remarks that were unknowingly fed back to reporters in Washington.
In Congress, where Democrats will be fighting to maintain their slim majority in the Senate after losing the House, the party says to expect their candidates to make a vigorous case against the Ryan plan.
"The Ryan plan is a document that says they’re going to balance the budget on the backs of the hard-working middle class American families and seniors who were not the ones that got us into this debt and deficit, and hold harmless millionaires and billionaires from participating in solving the problem. And I think that’s a fundamental fairness question that voters will vote against," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, told reporters.
The early forecast from political handicappers is that Democrats face long odds in the campaign to retake the House. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Thursday that they had outraised their Republican counterpart.
"Republicans’ radical agenda to end Medicare and play chicken with a government shutdown, while protecting taxpayer giveaways for Big Oil, is turning off independent voters and energizing our Democratic supporters," Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said.
Ryan predicted as he unveiled his proposal that Democrats would distort the plan to use it as a political weapon. One key test in Friday’s vote is how many Republicans vote against his plan with an eye toward their own races next fall.