Mitt Romney's Strategy to Win the Medicare Debate

Jeffrey Phelps/AP Photo

There is clearly a concerted effort by Team Romney to get out ahead of the Medicare debate .

Democrats have argued that Rep. Paul Ryan's various proposals to solve the budget problem would essentially end Medicare by making it a more market-based system for people under 55.

We're now starting to hear and see a plan of attack emerge from the Romney campaign to combat those assertions.

Ryan - as he did last night in Oxford, Ohio, and will continue to do today - argues that they welcome the debate on this.

"We want this debate, we need this debate, and we will win this debate," Ryan told the large rally at Miami University in Ohio.

Ryan has also been going out of his way to say he and Romney don't want to change Medicare for anyone 55 and older. And for those younger - you'll have a choice between the same Medicare you've always known, or a voucher-like system that allows you to find your own coverage. Ryan does not use the word voucher.

Ryan's earliest budget proposal did not include the option to stay with Medicare as we know it, but that has been added to subsequent proposals.

The biggest part of the Romney/Ryan argument continues to be that President Obama is the one who cut $716 billion from Medicare. They say this in nearly every interview and at every rally.

They don't mention that Paul Ryan's plan includes those very same cuts to future spending. The difference is that Obama's cost savings are funneled to the health reform law. Ryan's would be funneled toward deficit reduction. The Obama team also argues the cuts to future spending are actually to remove waste in the system already.

If Team Romney can muddy the waters on this and leave voters confused over which side is actually cutting or changing Medicare, they will consider it a job well done.

If they can convince voters that President Obama is actually the one who cut Medicare and that Romney/Ryan now want to save it, then they'll be over the moon.

This is the current strategy. But it could be risky.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll in late June - before Ryan debate began - asked the question, "Which party do you think will do a better job dealing with Medicare?"

Democrats in that poll had a 16-point lead - 40 percent to 24 percent over Republicans.

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