TAMPA — Rep. Paul Ryan electrified Republicans with his prime-time address Wednesday evening, but he also sent a jolt through House Democrats, who flocked to town to label him a hypocritical liar.
Waiting until the opposition's last convention balloon has dropped before starting to tear apart its message? So yesterday.
On Thursday, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., a vice chairwoman of President Barack Obama's presidential campaign; Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from South Florida; and Sandra Fluke worked the hallways of the Tampa Bay Convention Center, picking apart the Wisconsin Republican's speech and previewing the next phase of the campaign. Other Democrats in town include Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Obama advisers Stefanie Cutter, Ben LaBolt and Robert Gibbs.
Democrats, who will begin their own convention Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C., are homing in on six planks of Ryan's speech, according to an outline provided to POLITICO.
They'll criticize him on Medicare, say he had a hand in the country's credit downgrade that he tried to pin on Obama, tried to "sabotage" the president's work to heal the economy and talks a good game on women's issues, but has a record that runs contrary to his words.
There are also brand-new attacks: They plan to paint Ryan as disingenuous for criticizing the stimulus after requesting money for projects in his district. And the General Motors plant that Ryan said closed because of Obama actually started closing in 2008, before he took office.
It's a preview of the week to come as Democrats head to their convention, where they will own the airwaves and control the narrative roughly 60 days before voters head to the ballot box. The DNC has a war room two blocks from the convention center, an attempt to brush back on the Republicans' control over the message.
"I have to tell you that I was yelling at the TV" during Ryan's speech, Schakowsky said in an interview with POLITICO.
The standard criticism centers on Ryan's stance on Medicare. Democrats believe Ryan's plan destroys the Medicare benefit guarantee. Republicans say the Ryan plan subsidizes health care for the elderly.
Democrats are also taking down Ryan's assertion that the Obama health care law cuts $716 billion from Medicare. Wasserman Schultz said Ryan was "being absolutely hypocritical and lying" on that assertion, pointing out that Ryan's own budget plan passed by the House in March includes the same $716 billion in savings.
"It's simply not true. It's an outright lie," she said.
They're also homing in on Ryan for blaming Obama for a downgrade in the nation's credit rating, an action taken by Standard & Poor's after a protracted battle between Republicans and the White House over whether spending cuts should accompany a debt ceiling hike. They'll say Ryan and House Republicans "sabotaged" Obama's attempts to cure the ailing economy.
Ryan also said Wednesday night that Obama ignored the results of the Simpson-Bowles committee, a deficit-reduction commission the president created.
"He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing," Ryan said.
Ryan was also on that committee and voted against Obama's plan.
"When Simpson-Bowles came up, because I served with Paul Ryan on the Simpson-Bowles commission, it was a plan that not only did he vote against, but all three of the Republicans that were on the commission from the House of Representatives voted no on this plan, and then to attack the president for not embracing it, and not doing anything about it was absolutely stunning to me," Schakowsky said. "It was just one of the many lies that I heard last night."
The Romney-Ryan campaign was not exactly surprised.
"It's not surprising the president and his team don't like people talking about his failed policies," said Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck. "Instead of admitting that his policies have led to record unemployment, debt that puts our economy at risk and programs that have grown government at the expense of the private sector, President Obama continues to double down on the same false attacks and policies that have done nothing to fix our economy."
Democrats realize they have work to do to hone their Medicare message in Charlotte.
"We're going to have to keep saying that over and over because their repetition of a lie is beginning to gain some traction," Schakowsky said. "They are going to voucherize, privatize Medicare. Give seniors a certain fixed amount of money and say, 'Go out and find yourself an insurance company that will cover you.' "