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Mitt Romney might have gotten the far-right off his back by allowing himself to be bullied into choosing Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential nominee, but that's about all he gained with the pick. New polling from Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News in three swing states—Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin—show that Medicare has become one of the three key issues in this election, and President Obama has a strong advantage there.
In all of the states, strong majorities want to keep Medicare as it is, rejecting the voucher system entirely: Florida (62-28), Ohio (64-27) and Wisconsin (59-32). In addition, when asked who would do a better job on Medicare, Floridians give Obama the edge, 50-42; in Ohio the margin is 51-41; and in Wisconsin it's 51-42. Where the Paul Ryan pick has given Romney some advantages in Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, it disappears even in that state when the issue is Medicare.
These swing state voters echo what's been found consistently in polling since the original Ryan budget, with its Medicare voucher plan, was released: Medicare is viewed as a critical program, well worth the public investment in it. Three-quarters of voters in each state say Medicare is worth the cost to taxpayers.
Additionally, Romney's and Ryan's promise to protect current retirees doesn't seem to be working with seniors.
Mr. Romney has taken pains to stress that his Medicare plan would not change the benefits for people 55 or over. But voters over 55 have strong feelings about it, including in Florida, the electoral-vote-rich state where Republicans will hold their convention next week.
Jim Ryan, 75, a retired executive from Bradenton, Fla., who is an independent, said it was an important issue because he and his wife were on Medicare.
“We’re enjoying the benefits now, and the Paul Ryan program of making it into a voucher system would change things,” he said. “I know it’s not intended to apply to people in our age group, but I’m concerned about the future. I think it’s a wonderful program, and I’ve got middle-aged children and I don’t want to see the program destroyed. It’s probably one of the best programs sponsored by the federal government that we’ve ever had. It does have to be made fiscally sound, but there are ways to do that without destroying the whole concept or the substance of it.”
The generational warfare Romney and Ryan were so cynically counting on doesn't appear to be happening. And as the news that current retirees would face rising Medicare costs continues to filter out, any advantage they might have found in selfish seniors will erode.
That was the bargain Romney took in order to shut up the far right and get them on his side. It's the bargain that is helping to lose this election for him.
Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:31 AM PDT.