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Politicos Mixed On Whether Romney-Ryan Gamble Will Pay Off In Florida

Spencer Green

Presumptive GOP Nominee Mitt Romney’s selection of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate is appealing to both Republicans and Democrats. Republicans are cheering the selection as proof that Romney is serious about cutting the federal debt.  Democrats say Ryan’s proposal to cut entitlement programs such as Medicare for seniors in order to reduce the federal debt could help President Obama in swing states with large numbers of elderly voters.

Republicans have largely steered away from traditional social issues like abortion and gun rights this election cycle, choosing to focus instead on President Barack Obama and Democrats’ handling of the economy and the federal debt. The choice to focus on the economy and not social issues is by design.

“Right now we are hemorrhaging in debt and deficits, which is affecting our ability for companies to go out and create jobs. So let’s fix this now, let’s deal with the fiscal issues of the day and then amongst ourselves in our respective parties, we can battle out the fiscal issues in the months and years ahead," said Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry.

Florida Republicans are largely cheering the selection of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate. Ryan is largely known for his plan to reduce the federal deficit by shrinking the size of the nation’s entitlement programs such as the Medicare health program for seniors.  Democrats see Ryan’s selection as a boost for them too, especially in a state like Florida, which is a must-win for Republicans, and is also home to LOTS of senior voters.

“Obviously all Floridians are looking to the issues of Medicare and Social Security. [Those are] a promise between our country and the people. And it’s something all Floridians are rightly concerned [about], that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to turn Medicare into a voucher program," said Eric Jotkoff, the Obama campaign’s Florida spokesman.

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. 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.”   Susan McManus is a political scientist at the University of South Florida. 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.”  

Already the two campaigns have started hammering away at the Medicare issue. The Romney camp says the Obama administration plans to cut Medicare by almost $700 billion, but doesn’t say those cuts are largely due to reductions in waste and fraud and eliminating subsidies to health insurance companies through the healthcare overhaul law.  Meanwhile the Obama administration is firing back, saying the Romney-Ryan program will quote “end Medicare as we know it”, but doesn’t talk about what that really means.