A lot has changed since I wrote the cover story for our November issue in the early fall. Rick Perry, then at the top of many national Republican polls and making waves for his criticism of Social Security, has faded. Newt Gingrich, whose dismal poll numbers are referred to in the piece, has rebounded to the point where some surveys show him leading Mitt Romney. (Perry's slide had little or nothing to do with entitlements, while Gingrich has making arguments on the subject that could be described as Paul Ryan lite).
But the basic problem of how to deal with entitlements remains the same, as underscored by the failure of the supercommittee. It's gut check time for a Republican Party that has vacilated between bold reforms and demagoguery on the issue. How to make reform politically palatable, especially since many core Republican voters depend on Social Security and Medicare, also remains a major challenge. Most of the Republican presidential candidates are currently gesturing in the right direction while avoiding the details that proved politically perilous for the Ryan plan. Whether this is smart strategy or just a prelude to further disappointment remains to be seen.
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