Last month, Gallup found that 79 percent of voters say the federal budget deficit is extremely or very important in influencing how they’ll vote for president. With the national debt careening toward $16 trillion, Americans are growing uneasy about the burden that much red ink places on the economic recovery of today and the economic prospects for tomorrow. [See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.] Republicans, under the leadership of Rep. Paul Ryan, have released a proposal to reduce the size of future budget deficits, perhaps achieving balance by 2040. Meanwhile, the president’s budget does nothing to address this concern. In fact, his plan would enlarge the size of each year’s deficit, slowing the pace at which the country sinks further into debt but never changing the direction. This is a positive contrast for the Republican nominee: One side agrees that deficit spending is a problem and wants to put us on a path toward the eventual, if distant, elimination of our federal debt. The other side can’t bear to cut enough even to reduce the size of next year’s deficit compared to this one’s. [Read Paul Ryan Budget Won't Solve Deficit Crisis.] To think the Ryan budget hurts the Republican Party in 2012 is to assume the American people are incapable of understanding basic budgetary math. It supposes the public won’t appreciate a leader with the courage to actually make tough choices in difficult times. And it says voters who claim to be worried about deficit spending don’t really mean it—that in the end, they’ll support the candidates who promise them the most federal goodies, regardless of the obvious negative impact on the country’s fiscal standing. If the GOP seems confident it can win this argument, maybe that’s a sign we trust Americans not to be shocked by the radical, heterodox notion that bigger deficits aren’t going to lead to less in debt. Join the debate on Facebook. Follow U.S. News Debate Club on Twitter. Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider’s guide to politics and policy.