With his 78-year-old mother by his side, Paul Ryan told a crowd of several thousand retirees that he and Mitt Romney have a plan that will save Medicare from bankruptcy and accused President Obama of "raiding it."
Since the House Budget Committee chairman joined the GOP ticket one week ago today, Medicare has suddenly become the signature issue of the presidential campaign.
"Like a lot of Americans, when I think about Medicare it's not just a program, it's not just a bunch of numbers, it's what my mom relies on, it's what my grandma had," Ryan, dressed in a blue polo shirt and khakis, told the crowd, many of whom wore Romney/Ryan visors.
"My grandma moved in with us -- with my mom and me -- when I was in high school," he said. "She had advanced Alzheimer's. My mom and I were her two primary caregivers. You learn a lot about life; you learn a lot about your elderly seniors in your family; you learn a lot about Alzheimer's.
"Medicare was there for our family, for my grandma, when we needed it then; and Medicare is there for my mom while she needs it now, and we have to keep that guarantee," he said.
Ryan's mother, Betty Douglas, lives half the year in Ft. Lauderdale in southern Florida and half the year in their hometown of Janesville, Wis.
In front of the sea of seniors, the vice presidential candidate accused President Obama of cutting $716 billion from Medicare to pay for his health care plan.
Ryan included those same cuts in his signature budget plan -- the same plan Mitt Romney has said he would sign if he becomes president -- but Ryan says he was forced to build his plan on those cuts because they were already signed into law.
The $716 billion in cuts do not affect benefits for today's seniors. Instead, they reduce provider reimbursements and are intended to curb waste, fraud and abuse.
Ryan's plan has come under attack from Democrats because it would fundamentally change the plan, essentially making it a voucher program that critics say could cost senior citizens more.
Ryan says his plan is the only way to save Medicare from going completely bankrupt, and Romney has said his plan for Medicare is nearly "identical" to Ryan's.
Ryan has experience selling the message to seniors, but instead of the white board and complex message that Romney brought out at a press conference earlier in the week, the vice presidential candidate simplified and defended it in just a few sentences, saying "the best way to save Medicare is to empower" seniors.
"It's a plan that says: do not change benefits for people 55 and above, and for those of us who are younger when we become Medicare eligible, we get a choice of guaranteed coverage options. Guaranteed affordability options. Guaranteed affordability, including traditional Medicare. So we get to pick the plan for us when we retire, and that means all those providers compete against each other for our business," Ryan said to the crowd, which answered him at times with chants of, "Go Paul!"
Although the crowd was excited and plenty of women reached out to give hugs to Ryan on the ropeline, the audience was nothing like the around 40,000 people who came out in thousands of decorated golf carts to the same town square four years ago to see Sarah Palin. In January, about 5,000 people were at Romney's rally here.