Criticizing the Republican House budget isn't just for Democrats any more.
Republican Congressman and Senate candidate Connie Mack called the budget plan, drafted by fellow Rep. Paul Ryan, a "joke" during a weekend Orlando Tea Party forum. Mack, who missed the Ryan plan vote in Washington last week while he was fundraising in Florida, later said through a spokesman that he would have voted for it anyway.
Mack spokesman David James also sought to clarify that Mack didn't mean to criticize the conservative plan itself -- which President Obama roundly bashed Tuesday in a campaign-style speech.
"The vote was the 'joke,' as in the process being a joke, not the Ryan plan itself. And Connie said the vote was a joke," James said in an email. "He supports they Ryan plan but the process is a joke when the GOP House continues to do the right things and the liberal Senate under [Majority Leader Harry] Reid and [Florida Sen. Bill] Nelson continue to kill fiscally responsible measures."
Still, Mack clearly criticized the Ryan plan itself when he was asked about a string of missed votes in Congress, including the budget plan.
“I was here in Florida campaigning," Mack said Saturday, according to an undisputed quote reported by the conservative Florida Political Press. "You know that budget was a joke, doesn’t balance the budget for years.”
Comments like that can be deadly to Republicans this campaign season. Last year, conservatives were outraged when Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich dissed the first Ryan plan.
Mack also chided then-Senate candidate and state Senate President Mike Haridopolos last year for waffling over the Ryan plan. Haridopolos ultimately withdrew from the race for other reasons and has endorsed Mack. Mack, Ryan and Haridopolos have all endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has praised Ryan's budget plans.