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Romney, Obama debate Medicare


 Republican candidate Mitt Romney leaves his Boston headquarters on Friday.
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Date published: 8/18/2012

BY BEN FELLER AND CHARLES BABINGTON

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y.

--The jobs-and-economy election suddenly seems all about Medicare--for now, at least.

Republican Mitt Romney is embracing a topic his party usually approaches gingerly. He is taking a calculated risk that voters' worries about deficits and the Democrats' health care overhaul have opened the door for a robust debate on the solvency of Medicare, the insurance program for retirees.

President Barack Obama is welcoming the conversation, which has temporarily taken attention from the weak economic recovery.

One party may regret its position on Nov. 6.

Retirees in politically prized states such as Florida have often resisted changes in Medicare, one of the government's most popular but costliest programs. But GOP strategists say today's voters realize Medicare spending must be constrained, and Romney is banking on disenchantment with Obama's 2010 health care law to pave the way for his own proposals.

Romney, who has spent more than a year running almost entirely on the economy and jobs, put Medicare at the campaign's center when he chose as his running mate. Rep. Paul Ryan is Congress' chief advocate of significantly restraining entitlement programs.

Ryan was critical of Obama's handling of Medicare during a campaign stop in Springfield, Va., repeating his assertion thata the GOP ticket welcomed the debate over the future of Medicare. The Wisconsin congressman is expected to revisit Medicare in some depth in Florida on Saturday. He will face voters in a retirement community north of Orlando known as The Villages. Ryan's 78-year-old mother, a Medicare recipient, plans to attend. "We will not duck the tough issues; we will lead," Ryan told the Virginians.

Romney's willingness to tackle the issue was underscored Thursday when he used a marker and classroom-type whiteboard to summarize his thoughts on Medicare, with hardly a word about the unemployment rate. He said his plans would keep Medicare solvent while Obama's would not, a claim Democrats call absurd.

On Friday, summarizing the political view from the right, the Romney campaign distributed a Wall Street Journal editorial that declared: "By governing so far to the left, Mr. Obama may have neutralized 'Mediscare' and made voters more receptive to center-right solutions. Medicare is already changing because it must."

Obama's campaign has tried for months to tie Romney to House Republicans and Ryan's budget proposal, which would turn Medicare into a voucher-like system for future retirees.


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