For much of the Spring, Democrats enjoyed being on the offensive against Republican efforts to end Medicare. It was largely responsible for Dems picking up a “red” House district in a special election, and it created a credible issue House Dems intended to use to try to win back the chamber next year.

Obviously, a lot has happened since then, and to the relief of Republican leaders, the words “Paul Ryan” and “Medicare privatization” are no longer staples of the American political discourse.

But it’s not too late to change that.

With Medicare at the top of lawmakers’ fall agenda, Tea Party movement leaders hope to ignite support for Republican plans to transform the popular federal healthcare program for the elderly.

Thousands of Tea Party movement activists are expected to descend this month on town hall meetings across key battleground states as part of an intensifying campaign ahead of the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

Their priority is a plan to slash Medicare costs proposed by House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, which could gain momentum now that a debt-limit deal between President Barack Obama and Congress has made potential Medicare cuts a centerpiece of the deficit debate.

Really? They see the plan Republican leaders themselves quickly dropped when they sat down for debt-reduction talks possibly gaining “momentum”?

Tell you what, Tea Partiers, knock yourself out.

FreedomWorks, which helped found and shape the Tea Party movement, sees its campaign as the opening salvo in a long battle to secure a place for the Ryan plan in the 2012 debate and the legislative session that will begin in January 2013.

The gambit poses risks for Republicans in swing states including Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, which FreedomWorks is targeting.

Ya think?

I’m skeptical about all of this, in large part because I find it hard to believe Democrats are this lucky. But if Tea Partiers want the GOP plan to end Medicare, and replace it with a privatized voucher scheme, up front and center in 2012, I have a hunch President Obama and the DNC would gladly engage in the fight.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.