U.S. Republicans gambling in taking Medicare issue head-on

August 16, 2012

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON, Aug 15 (Reuters) – Faced with Democratic Party assaults on vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, Republicans have made the political calculation that a counter-attack can preserve support among senior citizens who could sway the November election’s outcome.

“Democrats are asking for it,” Mike Shields, political director at the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a memo to party operatives on Monday, just days after presidential hopeful Mitt Romney announced Ryan as his running mate.

Wisconsin Congressman Ryan has won the backing of party conservatives for policies aimed at cutting billions of dollars from the U.S. deficit. The most politically risky has been a proposal to transform the government’s Medicare health plan for the elderly into a program that would give seniors vouchers to manage their own healthcare costs.

The danger, according to political analysts, is that elderly dislike for Ryan’s plan could shave off as much as 5 percentage points of voter support from the Republican ticket in closely fought races in half a dozen swing states, including Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Many Republican officials initially expressed misgivings about the Ryan pick. But a growing number now believe a powerful offensive could recast Medicare as a debate about President Barack Obama’s unpopular healthcare reform law, a tactic that drew enough senior citizen support in 2010 to win a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The party also hopes to present Romney and Ryan as the team with the best plan to safeguard Medicare against future financial problems.

Ryan was already telegraphing the message late on Tuesday. “They turned Medicare into a piggy bank to finance Obamacare. The Obama campaign thinks it’s an achievement that they raided Medicare to pay for Obamacare, and we want to point that out,” Ryan said in a Fox News interview.

The top Republican in the U.S. Congress, John Boehner, outlined a similar strategy during a conference call with Republican lawmakers the same day.

Obama fired back by saying his rivals were being “pretty dishonest about my plan,” knowing that their own view on Medicare was “not very popular.”

To read more, visit: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/15/usa-campaign-medicare-idINL2E8JF54Q20120815

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