Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday made a foray into the GOP presidential race by asking for donations to launch ads in Iowa defending his 2012 budget.
In an email through his political organization, the Prosperity Project, Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, also asked the GOP presidential field to support the budget. Ryan is pushing back against a campaign led this week in Iowa by the Democratic National Committee to frame GOP presidential candidates as extremists.
Ryan didn’t endorse any particular candidate, and sought to bolster the field as a whole in Iowa, the state hosting the first nominating contest of the 2012 cycle. Nonetheless, the email represented an unusual entry for a leading House GOP member in the 2012 GOP primary fight.
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Ryan’s email could also be read as an effort to boost his own political profile in the state. Some conservative pundits are still beckoning Ryan to reconsider his vow not to run in 2012.
Many of the 2012 GOP candidates are gathered in Iowa this week to participate in the Ames straw poll, an opportunity for state voters to express early interest in candidates in February’s caucuses. Democrats are in the state this week to counteract the GOP rhetoric with their “Extreme Aims: Wrong for Seniors. Wrong for the Middle Class” tour, which is mentioned by name in Ryan’s email.
Ryan’s 2012 budget, which included controversial changes to Medicare, became somewhat of a litmus test for Republican presidential candidates earlier this year. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) ran into a political buzzsaw after calling the plan “right-wing social engineering,” and was forced to backtrack. Other candidates eventually expressed support for the plan after hedging at first on the plan’s specifics.
“The 2012 presidential election is a critical opportunity to establish our priorities of cutting spending, eliminating deficits, paying down the debt, and restoring economic growth,” Ryan wrote in his email. “With Iowa’s important role as an early state in the political process, I hope you’ll recognize the need to take our fight there right now.”