Democrat Mark Critz's campaign issued a statement on the Paul Ryan VP pick at 8:11 a.m. Saturday morning, more than a half hour before Mitt Romney formally introduced his running mate. The Critz camp had been hitting Rothfus with Ryan digs since the start of their general election matchup, so the renewed focus on his proposed overhaul of Medicare was like a fastball over the plate for the Democrat's campaign.Michael Jackson popcorn gif

GOP worries about entitlement reform are the (largely anonymous) talk of the Beltway, and the National Republican Congressional Committee was almost as quick as the Critz camp to give GOP candidates pointers on dealing with the issue. From Politico:

“Do not say: ‘entitlement reform,’ ‘privatization,’ ‘every option is on the table,’” the National Republican Congressional Committee said in an email memo. “Do say: ‘strengthen,’ ‘secure,’ ‘save,’ ‘preserve, ‘protect.’”

The Rothfus campaign has smartly parried by saying Critz's criticisms of the Ryan plan mirror those of the Obama campaign. From spokesman Jon Raso:

"Liberal Congressman Mark Critz has chosen to once-and-for-all align himself with President Obama in his fight to keep his political position and has elected to make his campaign solely driven by the same unfounded scare tactics used by President Obama – two career politicians, two desperate attempts to distract and deceive. But who can blame them? I honestly don't know how I'd campaign if I had to run on a record of 43 straight months of over 8% unemployment, 9.3% unemployment in my home county, raiding Medicare of $741 billion to pay for a new government program, and trillions of dollars in new debt that force us to place our children's future on the table and borrow more and more from China. But my campaign is about getting people back to work, saving Medicare for our seniors by repealing Obamacare, and creating the kind of economic growth that will enable us to pay down our debt and provide for our families. I stand not with President Obama, but with the American people."

Said the Critz campaign:

The people of Western Pennsylvania don’t like Keith Rothfus’ plan to end Medicare by turning it into a voucher program that will cost seniors an additional $6,400 per year for their health care. Now, Keith Rothfus is receiving his marching orders from inside the Beltway to do everything he can to keep Western Pennsylvania’s voters from finding out that he supports the Ryan Budget. According to Politico, The National Republican Congressional Committee began blasting out memos to Republican candidates like Rothfus warning them not to say anything about their plans to dismantle Medicare so they can give new tax cuts for the wealthy.

“Keith Rothfus is so out of touch with Western Pennsylvanians that even his political allies in Washington are telling him to quit talking about his disastrous plan to end Medicare and force seniors to pay an additional $6,400 per year for their health care so he can give the wealthiest Americans a tax cut,” Mark Critz for Congress spokesman Mike Mikus said. “Keith Rothfus can run but he cannot hide from the fact that his plan will be devastating for Pennsylvania’s seniors.”

Getcha popcorn ready: the issue is shaping up to be particularly explosive in this highly-watched race, and the fights between the campaigns continued this afternoon on Twitter (more here):

critzrothfustwitter

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