In 2011, the budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan was wielded by Democratic Congressional candidate Kathy Hochul to force a conversation on Medicare.

Hochul won the special election in a blood-red Republican district to replace the disgraced former Rep. Chris Lee, partially thanks to turning the contest into a referendum on unpopular budget cuts.

In 2012, Hochul is running for a full term in a redrawn House district that is even more Republican than before (John McCain won the area over Barack Obama by the widest margin in the state).

And while she faces a stiff challenge from former Erie County Executive Chris Collins, Mitt Romney’s selection of Ryan to be his vice presidential running mate could help Hochul — and Democratic House candidates across the country running in swing or GOP-leaning districts — once again use the budget proposals an effective weapon.

Though Romney’s selection of Ryan could energize a restive conservative base, the pick could have the consequence of forcing Republican candidates into a debate over the budget proposal.

Hochul in a statement responding to the Ryan pick is already tying him to Collins:

“Americans deserve new ideas for how we can reduce the debt and protect our seniors and the middle class. Just one year ago, Western New York voters rejected the Ryan-Collins policies that would end Medicare as we know it and hurt middle class families while giving more tax cuts to the rich. Our country needs to move forward, not re-hash failed ideas. Given Chris Collins’ ongoing support for tax cuts for the rich that add nearly $1 trillion to the deficit and his willingness to send his business to China to line his pockets, it is clear my opponent is going to continue to pursue policies and priorities that have already been rejected.”

It remains to be seen if this Medicaid referendum can be used effectively once again. Collins is a very different candidate from Assemblywoman Jane Corwin and has gone on the offensive over Hochul being a “public sector millionaire.”

If anything, it underscores how the Ryan selection could turn down-ballot races throughout the country and New York — where there at least a half dozen contested races — into a debate over the country’s social services spending.

Inboxes this morning are already being stuffed with news releases from Democratic candidates reacting to the Ryan selection (including Democratic candidates Sean Patrick Maloney and Julian Schreibman, both of whom are running against first-term Reps. Nan Hayworth and Chris Gibson respectively).

It remains to be seen if House GOP candidates embrace the plan and its specifics or take a more nuanced approach as some have done in the past.