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. http://abcn.ws/QDBxbI
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.
OBAMA, ROMNEY SPAR AFTER BIDEN 'CHAIN' COMMENT. ABC's David Muir reports for "Good Morning America" on the latest round of controversy over Vice President Joe Biden's comments in Virginia: This morning President Obama is defending Vice President Joe Biden, after Biden ignited that fiery war of words while criticizing Mitt Romney, the president speaking out overnight in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/OzWHwa
JAKE TAPPER REPORTS: FORMER INTEL OFFICERS TO HIT OBAMA. A new group of former intelligence and national security officers is attacking - on the web and soon in TV ads - the Obama White House for the various scandals over leaks, notes ABC's Chief White House Correspondent Jake Tapper. The group is called the Special Operations Opsec Education Fund and does not have to disclose its donors. The group specifically cites as objectionable the disclosure of information about the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Obama campaign's use of the killing as a campaign tool, the access to information about the raid given to filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow, the confirmation by the U.S. government of the participation of the Pakistani doctor that resulted in his imprisonment, as well as information about the Stuxnet virus, the US-British-Saudi agent who foiled an al Qaeda plot, and the Kill List. WATCH the group's 22-minute Web video here: http://bit.ly/Np3Gno
PAUL RYAN STARTS WORKING ON CONVENTION SPEECH. ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports from Denver: According to a Ryan aide, when the House Budget chairman was traveling from Des Moines, Iowa yesterday to Denver he began discussing his convention speech with speechwriter John McConnell and senior advisers, including Dan Senor. Senor is Mitt Romney's foreign policy adviser, but his role with Ryan will cover more than national security. He's expected to travel with Ryan throughout much of the rest of the campaign, and he will prep him for debates and on domestic policy as well, according to a Ryan aide. Senor also served in the Bush administration. Senor and Ryan are old friends as they both were congressional aides when Ryan worked for Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and Senor worked for Michigan Sen. Spencer Abraham. http://abcn.ws/Pfgxvn
with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)
YOUNG IMMIGRANTS LINE UP FOR LEGAL STATUS. The Department of Homeland Security's new initiative for young undocumented immigrants took effect on Wednesday, and ABC's Amy Bingham reports: After a lifetime of fearing deportation, being banned from working legally and fighting to stay in the country they grew up in, thousands and thousands of young, undocumented immigrants could get a reprieve today as the federal government begins accepting applications for two-year work permits. Immigrants who are younger than 31 and were brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthdays are eligible for the permits, which will allow them to stay and work here legally for two years. According to the Migration Policy Institute, up to 1.76 million people could be eligible. "That document is going to change my life forever," said Ramiro Luna, 29, who immigrated to Texas from Monterrey, Mexico, when he was 7 years old. "Everything is going to be different. I now feel welcome." http://abcn.ws/OzO98u
FACT-CHECK: HOW THE NEW POLICY WORKS. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: President Obama ordered the Department of Homeland Security to review and approve - on a case-by-case basis - temporary reprieves for young illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria and want to work and remain in the country. This type of administrative discretion has existed for a long time, but Obama has directed it to be more widely used. If approved, an immigrant's illegal status/removal is simply "deferred" for two years when the application is up for renewal. … Under a different administration - i.e. a President Romney - this could all easily change given that this is simply a matter of administrative discretion. http://abcn.ws/NrHRYI
ABC VIDEO: SHOOTING AT THE FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL. After a security guard was shot at the Washington-based social-conservative group Family Research Council on Wednesday, ABC's Pierre Thomas reports for "World News": Police say at 10:45 [Wednesday] morning, the suspect walked into the lobby of the Family Research Council and was confronted by a security guard, as the suspect yelled something suggesting he did not agree with the Council's policies. Sources tell ABC News the man pulled out a nine millimeter hangun, firing a shot and wounding the guard before he was wrestled to the ground." http://abcn.ws/Oj3apD
OBAMA IN IOWA: I HAVE STRENGTHENED MEDICARE. ABC's Mary Bruce reports from Dubuque, Iowa: President Obama entered the fight over Medicare today, telling supporters in Iowa that his GOP opponents are being "dishonest about my plan." "Here's what you need to know: I have strengthened Medicare," he said to applause from a crowd of 3,000 gathered at the Alliant Energy Amphitheater. "I have made reforms that have saved millions of seniors with Medicare hundreds of dollars on their prescription drugs." Obama is using the final day of his Iowa bus tour to push back against Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan, who are attacking the president for cutting $716 billion from the popular entitlement program. http://abcn.ws/OzKveZ
MCCAIN TO OBAMA: SWAP JOE FOR HILLARY. ABC's Sunlen Miller reports: Although he predicted it would not happen, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said today it would be "wise" for President Obama to take Vice President Joe Biden off the Democratic presidential ticket and replace him with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "I think it might be wise to do that but it's not going to happen obviously, for a whole variety of reasons," McCain said in an interview this afternoon on Fox News, stopping just short of Sarah Palin's call last night for an all-out replacement of Biden on the ticket. "I'm not sure if I were Hillary Clinton I would want to be on that team," the senator added, "I think her ambitions frankly are for 2016 and I'm not sure that would enhance that likelihood." http://abcn.ws/NGQJYF
ROMNEY: WE'LL 'RESTORE' OBAMA'S MEDICARE CUTS. After news outlets and President Obama's campaign pointed out that Paul Ryan's budget contains the same Medicare spending reductions on which Ryan and Mitt Romney have harped, Romney tells ABC affiliate WBAY that he'll repeal them: "Actually Paul Ryan and my plan for Medicare I think is the same, if not identical, it's probably close to identical. Our plan is very simple. Which is, that for people 55 years of age and older there's no change. The only change I'd mention for 55 and older is we'd restore the 817 billion dollars President Obama took out of the Medicare trust fund. We'd restore it to Medicare. I think the president's decision to take 817 billion out of Medicare to pay for obamacare is an outrage that seniors are going to find unacceptable." http://bit.ly/Pfg24w
…BUT THAT PROMISE MIGHT BACKFIRE. The Associated Press's Ricardo Alonson-Zalvidar explains: "The reason: Obama's cuts also extended the life of Medicare's giant trust fund, and by repealing them Romney would move the insolvency date of the program closer, toward the end of what would be his first term in office. Instead of running out of money in 2024, Medicare says its trust fund for inpatient care would go broke in 2016 without the cuts. That could leave a President Romney little political breathing room to finalize his own Medicare plan. The Romney campaign says there's no problem with the candidate's pledge. 'The idea that restoring funding to Medicare could somehow hasten its bankruptcy is on its face absurd,' said spokeswoman Andrea Saul." http://bit.ly/Pn73O8
PAUL RYAN MEETS HIS STAFF. Bloomberg's Lisa Lerer reports: "On the third day of his vice presidential campaign, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan met his staff. Fresh from a workout at a hotel gym in Iowa, Ryan stared into a video-conference monitor in exercise shorts and a University of Wisconsin baseball cap pulled down low. In Boston, a team of lawyers trooped into an office at campaign headquarters to greet their new boss … They've discovered that he prefers to receive paper briefings rather than verbal ones, according to an aide not authorized to speak about private meetings on the record. His background as a House member - who often collaborate with colleagues on legislation - comes out in briefings, which staff describe as free-wheeling brainstorming sessions." http://bloom.bg/NrITUF
PAUL RYAN: A CHALLENGE FOR JOE BIDEN. The Washington Post's Peter Wallsten and David Nakamura write: "Unlike four years ago, when Biden squared off against an unknown and largely untested Sarah Palin, the vice president is competing against a longtime congressman known for being a quick-minded policy expert. Now, unlike then, Biden must defend the Obama record while, associates say, keeping an eye on a potential 2016 White House bid of his own. As always, Biden faces the challenge of his tongue, which got him into trouble again this week when he told a racially mixed audience in Virginia that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's approach to regulating the financial industry would 'put y'all back in chains.'" http://wapo.st/R4j10g
RUBIO TO NEVADA. VP also-ran Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will travel to Nevada Thursday morning to campaign for Mitt Romney in Las Vegas, the Romney campaign announced: Rubio "will hold an event at the Summerlin Team Nevada Office in Las Vegas, Nevada. He will discuss Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's bold ideas to strengthen the middle class and address our debt. He will contrast this approach with President Obama's plan to raid Medicare for current retirees to pay for Obamacare while leaving Medicare on the path to bankruptcy."
THE RACE REFOCUSED. The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny writes: "The past several days have also brought evidence of a subtle but broad strategic shift by Mr. Romney, one that many Congressional Republicans are concerned could divert attention from job creation, the issue they think will work best for the party. In the midst of an election in which few voters have not already taken sides, he is now running a campaign more focused on energizing an anti-Obama coalition than on trying to expand the universe of Romney voters with an argument that he is the most qualified economic steward." http://nyti.ms/TH3NOC
POLL: OBAMA LEADS IN PENNSYLVANIA. From Franklin & Marshall College: "President Obama has led Mitt Romney in every Franklin & Marshall College Poll [of Pennsylvania voters] since August 2011 … The president currently leads Romney among registered voters in Pennsylvania 44% to 38% with 15% undecided. Allocating voters who lean to a candidate produces a similar advantage for the president, 47% to 42%, but shows that 7% of voters are truly undecided." http://bit.ly/Oj8bhY
NEW TV ADS: DEM GROUPS SPEND $1.6M TO HIT GEORGE ALLEN. The Democratic super PAC Majority PAC and the League of Conservation Voters announced they will spend $1.6 million to air two new TV ads in Virginia accusing GOP Senate candidate George Allen of voting for "trillions in debt," "special tax breaks that move our jobs overseas," and ties to the oil and gas industry: "[Allen] voted to keep special tax breaks for oil and gas companies-and took over a half million from them. Worse, Allen went to work for them." See the new ads here: http://bit.ly/PfeSpQ , http://bit.ly/Q2tlB3
GALLUP: JOB-MARKET GLOOM BACK TO PRE-CRASH LEVELS. Gallup's Melanie Standish and Gale Muller report on new polling data: "Worldwide, people were just as gloomy about local job prospects in 2011 as they were in the years leading up to the global economic crisis, with one in three saying it was a good time to find a job. While this trend reveals a dismal jobs outlook before the recession, it also shows people's views are returning to 'normal' after bottoming out in 2009." In 2009, 66 percent said it's a "bad time" to find a job; that's shrunk to 57 percent, Gallup reports. http://bit.ly/RZmOxq
CATERER AT OBAMA EVENT DONS PRO-ROMNEY T-SHIRT. ABC's Mary Bruce reports from Davenport, Iowa: Ross Murty, the co-owner of the Village Corner Deli in Davenport, is a proud small-business owner who isn't afraid to speak his mind. Serving up pulled pork, beans and cheesy potatoes for the press at the president's campaign event this evening, Murty wore a T-shirt that said, "Government Didn't Build my Business, I Did." … Murty, a registered Republican, was out of town this past weekend at a Cubs game in Chicago when representatives from the president's campaign came in and asked his business partner, Bret Dalton, a registered Democrat, if they would be interested in a catering job. Dalton accepted without running it by Murty. http://abcn.ws/Rjj8aI
OBAMA UNCHAINS BIDEN. ABC's Devin Dwyer and Mary Bruce report: [A]fter Vice President Joe Biden suggested Tuesday that Republicans want to put voters in "chains," triggering a fierce war of words between the rival campaigns, Obama is standing by Biden's side. In an interview with People magazine from Dubuque, Iowa, Obama called the vice president an "outstanding" figure who is "passionate about what's happening in middle-class families." He shrugged off the controversy over Biden's remark, defending and clarifying the overarching argument Biden was trying to make. http://abcn.ws/RUWQJR
@JoshDorner : "The Romney campaign is taking pains to track down and quash any criticism in Republican circles about…Ryan"
@paulwestdc : Initial jobless claims 366k, up 2k from last week, slight miss of expects of 361k. But 4wk avg falls 5.5k. Only 11 wkly repts til election
?@markknoller : Pres Obama also has meetings today with Secy of State Clinton and Treasury Secy Geithner. Biden sits in on those too.
-President Obama has no campaign events scheduled and will hold meetings at the White House. Vice President Biden is also in Washington DC.
-Mitt Romney is in Greenville, South Carolina for a lunchtime fundraiser.
-Paul Ryan is on the trail in Ohio holding a rally in the Alumni Arena at Walsh University. Ryan then travels to Cleveland, Ohio and Richmond, Virginia for fundraisers.
ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)
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