Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich famously panned the Ryan budget as "right-wing social engineering." Gingrich later apologized to Ryan. He should have stuck to the does-not-go-far-enough mantra.
Romney says he is "on the same page" as Ryan but has his own plan. Ditto Pawlenty. Huntsman alone has stood solidly with Ryan on Medicare. As he wrote in The Wall Street Journal, critics have a "moral responsibility" to propose their own formula to maintain the entitlement program's sustainability.
GOP voters are right to want a nominee who, unlike former President George W. Bush, pays more than lip service to the worthy goal of curbing the size of the federal government. For too long, when it has come to walking that walk, Republican leaders have not gone far enough.
But this week's debt deal changed that equation. Tea party stubbornness brought Washington to the point of endorsing cuts in the trillions of dollars. Then realists sealed the deal.
This compromise debt deal just might change Washington's culture of spending. If it does, when it comes time to vote, pragmatic Republicans may well look at the purist field and wonder, Are these people serious?