Ezra Klein in the Washington Post:
Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania has, for months now, aggressively backed the Medicare changes that House budget chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R) rolled out in April. That would be the plan that proposed privatizing the program and giving qualified recipients federal money to purchase health coverage. The plan was a political flop. Polls found that voters weren’t exactly keen to scrap the entitlement program as it exists now.
Most Republican candidates approached the Ryan plan with caution, if not outright criticism. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich didn’t mince words when he described it as right-wing social engineering.” Mitt Romney, while praising the principles of the Ryan plan, ultimately proposed another version of Medicare reform, which would have a government-run plan compete against private options. And that looks a lot like the plan that Ryan, partnered with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), rolled out last month.
But all along, Santorum has stood out in the GOP field as the Ryan plan’s biggest cheerleader. The day after Ryan rolled out his original plan, Santorum praised the House budget chairman’s ideas.
“I commend Chairman Ryan’s long-term budget proposal that tackles entitlement programs, particularly his proposed reforms of the Medicaid program,” Santorum said in a statement. “I also believe the Republicans’ approach to reforming Medicare is right on target to streamline the program, reduce waste and allow future Medicare beneficiaries to have more of a say in the needs of their benefits with a market driven approach.”
Santorum has endorsed the Ryan-Wyden plan, too. But he has also argued against the exact policy feature that makes the plan politically palatable: the guarantee that the government-run Medicare of today will still be around tomorrow. The day before the Iowa caucus, Santorum criticized the idea of public option in the Medicare program during a town hall speech. “I have a problem with the public option part that Ron Wyden has insisted on,” Santorum told Iowa voters.Democrats can only hope that a Ryan lover is the nominee. In fact, Ryan himself in the second spot on the ticket would really spotlight his discredited plan. Dems would be happy to hear him explain it for a couple of months next fall.