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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Medicare, Obama Plays Offense


DUBUQUE, Iowa - With Mitt Romney on the attack over Medicare, President Obama entered the fight on Wednesday, catapulting the popular entitlements program to the top of the presidential campaign.

The president, his aides said, will use the last day of his three-day bus tour of Iowa Wednesday to go on the offense against Mr. Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. Mr. Obama “will lay out the choice between his plan and the Romney-Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it,” Jen Psaki, a campaign spokeswoman, told reporters while traveling to Dubuque.

Mr. Ryan wrote two budgets approved by the House that would alter the Medicare program for future retirees.

That Mr. Obama would personally join the melee was a foregone conclusion when Mr. Romney picked Mr. Ryan as his running mate, ensuring that Democrats would try to take advantage of an issue that has long been viewed as a political vulnerability for Republicans.

In recent days, Mr. Romney has been trying to turn that vulnerability into an asset. The Republicans released a television commercial on Tuesday asserting that the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan was better for older Americans. “Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare. Why? To pay for ‘Obamacare.' So now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that's not for you,” the ad says.

What the ad doesn't say is that the $716 billion in cuts don't affect the benefits that seniors are guaranteed under the program.

Mr. Obama will be making that clear on Wednesday, aides said. The Republican proposals, Ms. Psaki said, would leave new retirees “with nothing but a voucher in place of the guaranteed benefits they rely on today.” Actually, the newest iteration of Mr. Ryan's plan would leave seniors the choice of staying in the traditional program or g etting a subsidy to buy private insurance.

Mr. Obama will be joined by Michelle Obama, the first lady, at two campaign stops Wednesday before heading back to Washington.