Dems on Defense as Ryan Flips Script on Medicare

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In the nine days since Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney chose Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, the clash with Democrats over Medicare has moved front and center in the national debate.

Republicans are used to losing arguments with Democrats over Medicare, but the tables appear to have turned.

Ryan took the Medicare issue head-on over the weekend in Florida, appearing with his mother before a group that may have the most concerns: senior citizens.

"Mom has been on Medicare for over 10 years, and I won't tell you exactly how many years over 10 years she's been on it," he told the crowd.

Democrats have used the now famous "push grandma over the cliff" ad to hammer Republicans on the Ryan budget plan, which they say would balance the budget on the backs of seniors.

But Ryan hammered right back in Florida with his charge that the president's health care plan will raid Medicare to the tune of $750 billion.

"Medicare should not be used as a piggy bank for Obamacare," Ryan said. Medicare should be used to be the promise that it made to our current seniors. Period. End of story."

So far, President Barack Obama hasn't said much about the Republican broadside.

"I guess they figure the best defense is to try to go on offense," he said.

But Obama's surrogates were busy on the Sunday shows refuting Romney-Ryan.

"That's the central question on the table for this election: how we're going to strengthen Medicare," Obama Campaign Spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said.

"Whether we're going to protect seniors or whether we're going to shift all the cost to seniors," she continued. "We're happy to have a substantive debate, but we need some substance on the other side."

Yet, even most of Ryan's critics acknowledge that the one thing his economic plan doesn't lack is substance.

And a new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests the voucher-like Medicare system embraced by Ryan and his Democratic Senate colleague Ron Wyden, may be a more efficient way of covering senior's health care costs.

The biggest downside, according to some, is that the current proposed Ryan plan wouldn't take effect until 2023.

But that hasn't stopped the Romney team from pushing the Medicare debate.

"This is the first election cycle I can remember in a long time where Democrats are on the defensive because of Medicare," Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom said.

The Romney camp won't dwell exclusively on Medicare all the way to November. But the issue has already gotten its share of press ahead of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., next week.

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John Waage

John Waage

CBN News Sr. Editor

John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.