ANALYSIS:If Mitt Romney's decision to announce his vice presidential pick earlier than most other presidential candidates in modern political history was supposed to turn the campaign away from the personal (his record at Bain, his refusal to release more than two years of tax returns, etc.) and back onto the sagging economy, it hasn't worked out that way.
At Paul Ryan's homecoming at his alma mater, Miami University of Ohio, the big takeaway was the Republican running mate's offensive play against President Obama on Medicare -- an issue that wasn't out-front on the campaign trail until this week.
Ryan accused Obama of raiding "Medicare to pay for Obamacare, which leads to fewer services for current seniors, is an achievement."
"Do you think raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare is an achievement?" Ryan asked. "Well, neither do I." But, as ABC's Shushannah Walshe points out: "What the House budget chairman didn't say, and what both Romney and Ryan want voters to believe, is that the Republican ticket opposes the Medicare changes, but that's not accurate. Ryan actually endorsed the same exact cuts in his signature budget plan, the same plan Romney has said he would sign if he became president."
In Ryan's first solo interview after becoming Romney's No. 2 this week with Fox News' Brit Hume, Ryan spent most of his time talking Medicare too.
"President Obama is actually damaging Medicare for current seniors," Ryan said. "It's irrefutable. And that's why I think this is a debate we want to have, and that's a debate we're going to win." And Ryan's ascension to the Republican ticket has only seemed to spur more detailed probing of Romney's own fiscal proposals. (Romney has also been forced to make clear this week that he is running on his own plan rather than Ryan's: "I am the one running for president," Romney said in an interview with CBS News yesterday).
Romney adviser Ed Gillespie did not do himself, or the Romney campaign, any favors yesterday when in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer he was unable to name the timeframe when Romney's plan would balance the federal budget.
"I should know it," Gillespie acknowledged. "I'm embarrassed on your air that I don't have that number at the top of my head. I didn't know we were going to talk about that today. I apologize." (Romney has set an 8-10 year timeline for balancing the budget if he were elected.)
What has gotten less play on the campaign trail this week -- and what has failed to break through over the din of the Medicare and budget chatter -- are bread-and-butter issues like the economy and gas prices. Those are the ones that voters say will drive their decision at the ballot box come November more than anything else.