Earlier this week, I dropped by a senior center in the Philadelphia suburbs, about a mile from Valley Forge. Rep. Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), a swing-district freshman, held a town hall. It was a peaceful affair:
If Meehan’s Tuesday appearance is any indicator, Republicans may face more questions than criticism on the budget, at least at this stage. But no bookie, nor Meehan, would bet that every town hall will be full of inquisitive, easygoing seniors. Indeed, for many members during this congressional recess, explaining the Ryan budget has been a sweat-inducing balancing act.
Heartily advocating entitlement reform, while carefully clarifying Ryan’s ideas, can be tricky. At Shannondell, Meehan reminded me of a teenager gently explaining the Grateful Dead to grandparents: The elderly know that this does not directly affect their generation, but they have heard some troubling things and want to learn more.
In fact it was Meehan, not an audience member, who brought up the Ryan budget, nearly 40 minutes into the presentation, as if he was surprised by the calm. “It is an outline,” he emphasized as he paced the soft-carpeted confines. “When Ryan did this, he did not demagogue, he is not out there pointing fingers. He is laying out his concerns.”