ANALYSIS By DUSTIN HURST | Watchdog.org
Romney tapped Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan for the VP spot Saturday morning in Norfolk, Va. He’s the same Paul Ryan that Rehberg and the National Republican Senatorial Campaign ran an ad against to win over independent Montana voters.
The TV ad did not hit Ryan specifically but rather the budget he crafted while serving asU.S. House Budget Committee chairman. The Ryan Plan, as it’s called, would cut government spending by $5 trillion through the next decade. How it gets there is a rub for Rehberg and some others.
So, the Montana congressman, in an incredibly tight race to unseat first-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, voted against Ryan’s fiscal “Roadmap,” when it came to the U.S. House — twice.
Those votes led to the ad.
“And Rehberg refused to support a Republican budget plan that could harm the Medicare program so many Montana seniors rely on,” the June 20 ad said, touting Rehberg’s political independence.
The Wall Street Journal, not exactly a left-wing publication, eviscerated Rehberg for the spot.
“Will it matter if Republicans take over the Senate this November?” the paper wrote June 26. “Not much if you judge by the TV ads trashing Paul Ryan and the House budget reforms, courtesy of Republican Senate candidate Denny Rehberg.”
There is a silver lining for Rehberg: Romney has not fully embraced Ryan’s budget, either, and said the duo would craft their own budget proposal in coming weeks.
Yet, Rehberg sits in a tough position. He seeks to be a loyal GOP foot soldier while opposing his party’s presumptive second in command.
Pundits and politicos notice the dilemma.
“I bet Denny Rehberg woke up with a big headache this morning,” NBC newsman Chuck Todd tweeted this morning.
“Ryan vs. Rehberg in Montana should be a fun race to watch,” Chris Mora, a Montana Democratic Party operative, said over Twitter.
Perhaps sensing the maelstrom headed his way, Rehberg released a statement lauding Romney’s pick.
“I’m excited that Gov. Romney chose my friend and House colleague Paul Ryan to be our party’s candidate for Vice President,” Rehberg wrote. “It’s clear that Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan are the right team to lead our nation in that comeback.”
Rehberg did acknowledge — without specifics — that he bucked the Ryan budget plan.
“Congressman Ryan is a public servant of the highest order, and I appreciate his character, intelligence, and creativity, not only on the vast majority of issues on which we agree — like controlling government spending, developing our natural resources, and providing tax relief for families and job creators — but also on the few occasions where we haven’t,” Rehberg wrote.
The Tester campaign hasn’t said anything about the Ryan pick or the pickle in which Rehberg now finds himself.
You can bet that won’t last long.
For more Montana news and analysis by Dustin Hurst, go to Watchdog.org or click here. He can be contacted at email@example.com or (406) 431-9342.