Florida's Senior Medicare Vote In Play in November

Aug 17, 2012

Republicans are cheering the selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as Presumptive GOP Nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate. The move has also sparked a heated debate over the future of the nation’s Medicare program for seniors. Ryan is the architect of a budget proposal that includes those program cuts and Romney has said he supports the Ryan approach. Democrats say the Republican stance on Medicare could help President Obama in swing states.

Polling firms are hard at work, crunching numbers, and throwing in a leading question or two along the way. Attention has been focused on Paul Ryan, the Conservative Wisconsin Republican whose plan for cutting the federal budget includes scaling back the Medicare program for seniors.

“He put forth a plan and I think people will give him credit for that. He was bold enough to tackle the issue and address the issue of the day and that’s exactly what we need right now," said Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry.

He said he doesn’t believe Mitt Romney’s Choice of Paul Ryan and his running mate will hurt the party’s chances of winning Florida in November.  And Florida Governor Rick Scott says he agrees with that.

“Everybody understands that this is going to be Governor Romney’s plan. Paul Ryan will help him.  Very focused on how to get the state back to work, how we get the country back to work… and I’m very supportive of what he’s trying to do," Scott said."

When it comes to Medicare reform, both Romney and Ryan share similar views. Mitt Romney has proposed changing Medicare into an income-based voucher-like system, which would give seniors money to purchase private health plans. Romney’s proposal also gives seniors the option in staying in the traditional Medicare system, but premiums in the government program would rise to market levels and could increase out-of-pocket costs.  That’s very similar to Paul Ryan’s plan. And those positions could get a mixed reception in the must-win battleground state of Florida, where seniors are a large, and very consistent, voting bloc.

“First of all, it’s a very complex issue and it’s hard to explain to people," said University of South Florida Political Scientist Susan McManus.

She says while the move is sure to fire up the Republican base, it may not translate to support with Florida seniors, which are almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

“To boil down Medicare to a meaningful level and convince seniors that these reforms won’t affect them --because as structured they will not under the Ryan plan—is going to be a difficult challenge. And it’s really going to boil down to who can get their message out the loudest.”

And Democrats have already started their attack ads on Romney and Ryan’s Medicare positions in Florida, with ads like this one:

Democrats see Ryan’s selection as Romney’s running mate as a boost for them in battleground states.

“Obviously all Floridians are looking to the issues of Medicare and social security. This is a promise between our country and the people. And it’s something all Floridians are rightly concerned that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to turn Medicare into a voucher program," said Eric Jotkoff, Florida Spokesman for the Obama Campaign.

According to the most recent Purple Poll of 12 swing states, including Florida, the Republican ticket saw a slight uptick in support.  In Florida, The GOP trails the Democratic ticket by only a point. Romney and Ryan have an advantage on the economy, but the poll also notes that switching the conversation to Medicare helps President Obama.