The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released its first ad of the general-election season on Thursday, attempting to saddle a Republican freshman lawmaker with the Medicare cuts in GOP vice-presidential pick Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book Paul Ryan says it's 'really clear' Biden won election: 'It was not rigged. It was not stolen' Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE's (R-Wis.) budget plan — an attack that's likely to play a central role in much of their strategy this year.

The ad targets Rep. Dan BenishekDaniel (Dan) Joseph BenishekRepublican groups launch final ad blitz in key House battlegrounds Tea Party class reassesses record Michigan Republican to retire MORE (R-Mich.), who's facing a challenge from former state Rep. Gary McDowell for Michigan's 1st district, for voting to "essentially end Medicare," though it doesn't mention Ryan or the budget by name. 

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Benishek's district voted for Obama in 2008 but leans Republican now, and the ad's omission of Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, is likely a nod to the fact that the Republican ticket could remain popular there.

Benishek has run on his credentials as a physician, so Medicare could play a large role in Democrats' tangles with the incumbent this cycle. But he remains slightly ahead of McDowell, according to the last poll released, in a race that's a rematch of their 2010 fight.

Democrats say Mitt Romney’s decision to pick Ryan as his running mate gives them the upper hand on Medicare, a view shared by some GOP strategists.

President Obama’s campaign has attacked Ryan’s plan as a voucher system that would be bad for seniors and argues the issue could prove decisive in Florida, a key swing state.

Romney has countered that Obama hurt Medicare by "raiding" it to help pay for his administration's healthcare reform law.

Ryan in 2011 wrote a budget that would have replaced the traditional pay-for-service Medicare system with subsidies provided to beneficiaries to purchase private insurance. In his 2012 budget, Ryan offered beneficiaries the choice of keeping traditional Medicare or moving to the new system, which Ryan says would cut Medicare’s costs.

On a conference call Tuesday night, Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying world A new kind of hero? Last week's emotional TV may be a sign GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE (R-Ohio) told House Republicans they have nothing to fear from the Democratic attacks. He said Ryan’s presence on the Romney ticket will help them "play offense" on Medicare.

“The pundits are buzzing that with Paul on the ticket, the Democrats are going to attack us on Medicare. Well, here’s a news flash: they were gonna do that anyway,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying world A new kind of hero? Last week's emotional TV may be a sign GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE said, according to a source.

“The best defense on Medicare is a good offense. And Paul Ryan gives us the ability to play offense.” 

— This story was updated at 11:08 a.m.