Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) will tell the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference’s opening-night banquet Thursday that the right can’t expect to simply run against President Obama’s record and win in November.
The House Budget Committee chairman said that Republicans need to “go bold” in 2012, whoever their candidate may be, with a “full-throated” defense of conservative principles.
In a phone preview of his speech to bloggers today, Ryan said it is equally important to spell out a vision when pointing out the “dismal record” of the commander in chief.
“The president is trying to transform our country away from our founding principles,” Ryan said. “…Because he cannot run on his record he will run on class division.”
He said that conservatives must meet the challenge of urging Americans to “reject the divisiveness” and focus on bringing the country away from government intervention.
Ryan said he will tell CPAC that the 2012 election must be about ideals instead of personalities, giving the country a very clear choice that steers away from Obama’s “debt, doubt and decline.”
The chairman also said he’ll emphasize that the clock is ticking to get America back on track.
“I really think that we only have 2 or 3 years before we get into a very ugly debt crisis,” he said, that would result in “austerity mode.”
The president’s budget is due on Monday, and Ryan said early indications suggest it is a “status quo” document.
“We want to accentuate differences,” Ryan said, noting that Republicans will build off last year’s plans in their budget roadmap.
Budget Committee Republicans, though, haven’t yet sat down to write their budget as they’re waiting for a baseline from the Congressional Budget Office first.
“We still have to wait for our measuring stick from CBO to put our budget together,” he said.
Ryan said they will be focused on “designing a plan to save the country from a debt crisis.”
He said Obama and Democratic leaders are increasingly showing “they would rather double down on the progressive philosophy… and demagogue.”
“We’re not going to punt,” the chairman said. “We’re going to show how we’ll fix these problems.”
Ryan said he’ll stress to CPAC attendees that it’s not enough to say the president is doing a bad job, but that conservatives must confront arguments that paint the right’s vision as “an agenda of social Darwinism” with a cruel society where only the strong survive.
“There’s a moral high ground here and we have to defend that,” he said. “We believe in equal opportunity, not equality of outcome.”
That includes not banking on “default elections,” Ryan said, but a presidential contest that “gives the people of our communities, our country an affirmative choice to vote for.”
Ryan did not endorse a presidential candidate in 2008 and has not yet offered any of the GOP hopefuls his endorsement (here’s a list of current endorsements in Congress).
When asked in the conference call about Romneycare as an inspiration for Obamacare, Ryan said the mandate in Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts healthcare system did carry over to Obama’s health reform.
Ryan said, though, that Romney “has done a pretty good job of saying he would not do this at the federal level,” and he expected any eventual GOP nominee to oppose Obamacare.
Romney is also scheduled to speak at CPAC, along with fellow presidential candidate former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, are scheduled to introduce a screening of the film Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny.