Republicans are winning the political debate on entitlement reform and Medicare, issues long dominated by Democrats, in the wake of Mitt Romney’s selection of running mate Paul Ryan.
A poll released last week shows seniors nationwide back the GOP proposals on Medicare overall, with tight battles in some key swing states.
Romney is out-polling President Barack Obama on Medicare among seniors by margins of 48 percent to 44 percent in Florida and 49 percent to 43 percent in Ohio, according to the New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac poll. In Wisconsin, Obama is barely ahead of Romney among seniors on Medicare, with a 49-to-46 percent lead.
And the president focused on student loans and young voters throughout mid-August, according to Bloomberg, suggesting the campaign is retreating from what used to be politically safe territory after initially hitting the Romney campaign on Medicare.
The situation comes as a surprise to a party that, in previous election cycles, deliberately avoided entitlement talk on the campaign trail. Inside the beltway, GOP officials call the issue the “third rail of politics,” a political landmine that could destroy careers and end bids for public office.
That explains why many on the left collectively jumped for joy when Romney announced his vice presidential pick on Aug. 11. Ryan, a young and energetic House Budget Committee chairman from the Midwest, is well-known in Washington for his complex budget plans, which call for numerous cuts and sweeping reforms of Medicare.
“Paul Ryan is a right-wing extremist who wants to end Medicare,” Adam Green, founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement after Romney made his announcement. “If Democrats win in a landslide, this was the game changer.”
But in the two weeks since Romney picked Ryan, Republicans have shattered expectations and overcome that rhetoric, largely thanks to their presidential candidate’s aggressive campaign strategy.
In his remarks at the event announcing Ryan’s selection, Romney pointed out that Obama cut more $700 billion from Medicare to pay for his health care plan.
“Unlike the current president who has cut Medicare funding by $700 billion, we will preserve and protect Medicare and Social Security,” Romney said on the USS Wisconsin when he named Ryan his running mate.
On Aug. 14, Romney’s campaign released a new television ad, called “Paid In,” that attacked those cuts Obama made to Medicare. That same day, House Speaker John Boehner urged his House GOP caucus members to get aggressive on Medicare all around the country.