Medicare. Medicare. Medicare.
Despite the steep uphill battle Democrats have in taking back the House, in a briefing today with reporters, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) was bullish about his party's chances for winning the chamber.
And you can probably guess why.
"Paul Ryan has become a downballot disaster for Republicans across the country," he said in a pen-and-pad briefing with the Washington, D.C., press corps at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
Israel said Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney picking Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan — the author of controversial budgets that fundamentally change the way future seniors interact with Medicare — as his running mate helped to reinvigorate Democrats' messaging and gave the DCCC a very good August.
He said if the momentum of August carries over into a good September and October, Democrats "can net the 25 seats we need minimally" to take back the House.
"Romney grabbed the megaphone from us when he chose Paul Ryan. He branded this debate and gave us the debate we wanted," Israel said.
"At the Congressional level, we have House Republicans, who put their voting card in the machine and voted yes to end Medicare as we know it," Israel said. "You can't muddle it when you have a vote you can hang around people's necks, and we have that vote. If you are a House Republican, with only a handful of exceptions, you affirmatively voted to end Medicare as we know it."
Democrats, of course, have been using this argument for almost the whole election cycle. But, echoing what he told Roll Call last week, Israel insisted that a series of events in August had shifted the wind to Democrats back.
Republicans, not surprisingly, disagree. They have worked to blunt the Medicare attacks on their incumbents and challengers by noting the cuts to future Medicare spending embedded in President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. And many GOP strategists believe the push back has worked to bring the Medicare issue to a draw.
Democrats "clearly lost the Medicare debate at the House race level in the month of August," said influential GOP strategist Brad Todd, who advises the National Republican Congressional Committee.
"I don't think that there have been any encouraging signs on the House of Representatives front for the Democrats in six months," he told Roll Call earlier this week. "All the data I have seen in 50 districts indicates that Democrats are going to struggle to gain more than a couple of seats."
Whatever the final outcome, Israel made this much clear. Democratic messaging in the next 54 days is going to have a familiar ring to it.