MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Mitt Romney campaign has one major task to pull off in the coming weeks: make sure Romney gets to define vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan before Democrats can turn the Wisconsin congressman’s budget proposal into an albatross.
“It’s got to change, but the younger generations will be able to prepare for that,” said voter Ann Raiola. “We always thought we would have Medicare.”READ MORE: Attorney For Key Ally Of Venezuela Leader's Nicolas Maduro Called His Extradition To The US Illegal
Central to the Romney campaign’s message is defining the battle over Medicare which was addressed in Ryan’s GOP budget proposal passed by Republicans in the House of Representatives. Ryan’s plan included utilizing vouchers to pay for Medicare.
Democrats pounced on the voucher move and said Ryan and Republicans were seeking to end Medicare as it is currently constructed. The Democrats argument was that if Medicare is turned into a voucher program, unless the vouchers were tied to the rapid rise in health care costs, there’s going to be a gap in coverage.
Democrats said the gap would then leave seniors and other Medicare recipients on the hook for the uncovered costs between the amount the vouchers paid and how much the cost of health care actually cost.
Romney pushed back earlier in Florida saying that both he and Ryan want to “preserve and protect Medicare.” Romney said Sunday night that President Obama “robbed Medicare $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare.”
The problem for Romney is the budget that was authored by Ryan and vociferously supported by the GOP nominee contained the same cuts that are now being slammed against the president.
Three voters told CBS4’s Joan Murray Monday that they support changing Medicare, as long as their current benefits stay intact.READ MORE: Haiti Gang With Past Abductions Blamed For Kidnapping Missionaries
“They say it’s going to run out of money,” said Marilyn Rizzo. “So there has to be changes along the way.”
Obama and Ryan both agreed that Medicare per-benificary cost growth should be capped at GDP plus 0.5 percent, but then their plans diverge.
Ryan’s plan that includes the subsidy/voucher idea was estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to raise seniors’ out-of-pocket expenses by roughly $6,500 a year, according to talkingpointsmemo.com. Obama’s plan was to have an expert panel that could cut payments to providers, but not beneficiaries.
The difficulty with Obama’s plan comes from the fact that the 15 member panel would have to be confirmed by the Senate, which given the gridlock in Washington could take decades. Congress could override the panel’s cuts by passing its own cuts with a three-fifths super majority, according to tpm.com.
Ryan’s plan was initially very unpopular with seniors, which in a state like Florida could be extremely detrimental to Romney’s chances of winning the White House. That’s why the Romney campaign and affiliated Super PAC’s are already trying to win the message war on Medicare.
“The Republicans are going to have to explain very carefully how changes in government is not going to affect changes in Medicare, otherwise kiss Florida goodbye because the Democrats will hammer that point, again and again and again,” said Nova Southeastern University professor Charles Zelden.
Turning the attention to Medicare could also be tough on Romney’s campaign because it will deflect from his attacks on the economy.MORE NEWS: Miami Police Investigate Bomb Threat
The next two to three weeks before the Republican and Democratic National Conventions will be spent trying to define each other’s views on Medicare and the Ryan budget. Whoever wins the public opinion over that time could have quite a bump heading into the conventions.