WARREN, Ohio—Paul Ryan is headed to a Florida retirement community with his mother on Saturday to make his argument about the need to change Medicare for future generations. Ryan’s mother is in her late 70s.
He’ll appear at The Villages, the world’s largest retirement community and a conservative stronghold that is a must stop for Republican candidates. In 2008, a massive crowd of between 30,000 and 60,000 seniors came out to a rally Sarah Palin held there. Despite the Republican-leanings it’s a clear sign the Romney campaign will continue to stay on the offense on Medicare, but with this trip they may be entering the lion’s den.
Ryan’s mother, who will accompany him, can help her son connect with the senior citizen audience. She lives part of the year in Lauderdale-By-The Sea and part of the year outside of Janesville, Wisconsin.
But if addressing a group of Florida seniors on Medicare reform is a challenge for Ryan, even as his drastic changes to the program would alter no benefits for those currently over 55, then Ryan is making his pitch to one of the friendliest lion’s dens possible: The Villages is a hotbed of pro-Romney money.
The retirement location itself made a hefty corporate donation to the main super PAC supporting Mitt Romney’s presidential bid. The Villages of Lake Sumter, Inc., the Florida retirement community that includes property development, golf and other recreational activities, donated $250,000 to Restore Our Future last June. Five individual residents donated a total of over $678,000 to the group, which also received money from utility, communications, commercial property, and investment companies located in The Villages, Fla.
Ryan and Romney continue to hone their Medicare argument. Ryan was asked directly about his criticism of cuts to future Medicare spending in the president’s health care plan Thursday and how that squares with his own signature budget plan, which includes those same exact cuts.
At a hot dog restaurant here he said because those cuts are already signed into law they are part of the baseline and if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, like the GOP ticket is proposing, that money would come back to Medicare.
“First of all, those are in the baseline, he put those cuts in,” said Ryan at the Original Hot Dog Shoppe, suggesting that he is simply working with the budget situation handed to him by the president and Democrats. “Second of all, we voted to repeal Obamacare repeatedly, including those cuts. I voted that way before the budget, I voted that way after the budget. So when you repeal all of Obamacare what you end up doing is that repeals that as well. In our budget we’ve restored a lot of that…We would never have done it in the first place. We voted to repeal the whole bill. I just don’t think the president’s going to be able to get out of the fact that he took $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.”
At a Catholic college Thursday morning Ryan repeated that the Medicare debate is one “we need to have” and one “we are going to win,” before laying into Obama over these same cuts.
“What he probably did not mention yesterday is that when he passed his signature health care achievement Obamacare he raided 716 billion dollars from Medicare to pay for Obamacare,” Ryan said at Walsh University. “This will lead to fewer services for seniors. President Obama’s campaign calls this an achievement. You think raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare? Neither do I.”
He added that the Romney ticket will “protect and strengthen Medicare, leave it in tact for our current seniors and save it for the next generation.”
Ryan’s plan would replace Medicare with a voucher program. In his plan Medicare would cease to pay for health services directly, instead operating as a board that approves a menu of health plans for public sale and doles out predetermined lumps of money to people enrolled in Medicare, to help them buy those plans. This could cost seniors thousands of dollars more each year, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Ryan endorsed the same exact cuts in his plan, the same plan Romney has said he would sign if he became president. The cuts do not affect benefits for seniors or the elderly. Instead, they reduce provider reimbursements and curb waste, fraud and abuse. In an interview with ABC News Green Bay, Wisconsin affiliate, WBAY, Wednesday Romney said his “plan for Medicare is the same, if not identical, it’s probably close to identical” to Ryan’s signature plan.
ABC News’ Chris Good contributed to this report.