Linda McMahon can't dodge Paul Ryan fast enough

That giant sucking sound you heard over the weekend, after Medicare slayer Paul Ryan became the Republican vice presidential candidate, was more of Linda McMahon's millions washing down the drain.

McMahon, who has always been coy about how she would treat entitlement spending if elected to the U.S. Senate, suddenly came out with a position Sunday, faster than a good wrestler could slip a neck hold.

Panic had apparently set in. Never mind the Tuesday primary, which was already in the bag.

McMahon would never support a budget that cuts Medicare, a spokesman for the candidate said promptly in the wake of the weekend Ryan announcement.

As best as I can tell, it's the first time candidate McMahon has ever ventured a firm opinion on entitlement spending.

Throughout her 2010 run for Senate, as a matter of fact, her routine talking point and answer when the question of entitlements came up was that it wasn't something that should be discussed on the campaign trail.

Honest. She said that over and over.

I guess the prospect of having a hard core Medicare and Social Security reformer at the head of the Republican ticket, here in old blue Connecticut, was enough to goad McMahon quickly into a campaign discussion of entitlements.

Indeed, having Ryan at the head of the ticket here is going to make McMahon uncomfortable on many levels.

And I wonder how the discussion has changed at the breakfast table in the McMahon household, with all those tens of millions in McMahon's self-financed Senate campaign now at a much greater risk of producing more of nothing.

Connecticut voters, including the moderate Republicans McMahon needs, are going to have a hard time with a range of right-wing Ryan positions, from denying abortion rights even to victims of rape to lax gun controls.

But now that we can see where the principal discussion in the presidential race is heading - whether to save the middle class - it's going to be a much harder election season for a rich, free-spending candidate for Senate.

Ryan, whose long Washington career has been underwritten in part by billionaires like the Koch brothers, has proposed steep tax cuts for the very rich.

By some accounts, his proposals to eliminate taxes on capital gains and dividends could mean rich taxpayers like Mitt Romney and McMahon could pay a tax rate of less than 1 percent.

Who should moderate middle-class voters in Connecticut conclude will more likely protect them in the Senate from deep cuts to entitlements, paid for with tax cuts for the very rich?

My guess for an answer is that it is not someone who isn't worried about ever getting a Social Security check and who might love to pay a tax rate of less than 1 percent.

To duck the fallout, McMahon will have to do better than her fictitious campaign budget plan, with its tantalizing middle-class tax cut, which economists have already said doesn't add up.

I hunted out some voters at the polls Tuesday, to see if I could hear much of a Ryan echo here yet.

I did find one Democrat voter who suggested that there are a lot of "confident Democrats" out there this week.

But I also ran into state Rep. Chris Coutu, the hardworking Republican who abandoned a run for the 2nd District Congressional seat to aim instead for the 19th state Senate district.

I asked Coutu about the Ryan factor, and he shrugged off the notion of damage down the ticket, saying voters will respect Ryan's pluck, his forthright stand on cutting the deficit.

Sure. Maybe.

But I doubt that's the assessment being made this week at the McMahon breakfast table.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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