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Friday, September 21, 2012

Ann Romney\'s Plane Makes Emergency Landing


NEW ORLEANS â€" Representative Paul D. Ryan faced a tough and at some points hostile audience on Friday at the AARP convention here, drawing applause when he introduced his mother but eliciting wide boos and shouts of “No!” when he called for the repeal of Obamacare, as well as scattered shouts of “47 percent” and “liar” as he attacked other aspects of President Obama's policies.

While Mr. Ryan received a standing ovation from many in the crowd when he was introduced â€" and was applauded at other parts of his speech â€" it seemed to be the most critical audience that the 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman has faced since he was named last month to be Mitt Romney's running mate.

The response contrasted with the more positive reception given to President Obama, who had spoken to the convention over a satellite link earlier on Friday morning. AARP is a nonpartisan organization but supported the Affordable Care Act, which many Republicans refer to as Obamacare.

The booing started when Mr. Ryan repeated his ticket's longstanding view that the health care law should be repealed.

“If we reform Medicare for my generation, we can protect it for those in or near retirement today,” Mr. Ryan began, to some applause.

“The first step toward a stronger Medicare is to repeal Obamacare, because it is the worst of both worlds,” he added, although the last few words were nearly drowned out by hoots and shouts of “No!”

“I had a feeling there would be mixed reactions,” Mr. Ryan said.

Mr. Ryan also drew a negative response when he implied that Mr. Obama was willing to forsake retirees for his o wn political survival.

“Time and again this president has ducked the tough issues,” he said. “He's put his own job security over your retirement security. He said he'd be willing to work with Republicans, but he has not moved an inch closer to common ground.”

“Liar! Liar!” some in the crowd shouted.

But other arguments drew more uniform applause, as when Mr. Ryan said, “Our idea is to force insurance companies to compete against each other to better serve seniors, with more help for the poor and the sick, and less help for the wealthy.”

According to AARP, the median age range for members who attended the convention was 58 to 63. Interviews with a number of members before the speeches suggested that more people who are younger than the group's traditional demographic may have attended because, unlike in past periods when Social Security and Medicare were not seen as threatened, there is now more concern among people in middle age that t he programs will be cut, even as private employers trim back pensions and health care benefits.

Many in the audience were plainly wary of the Romney-Ryan approach to Medicare. “I'm not going to vote for anybody who has a voucher plan,” said Doug Turton, a 53-year-old from Maine who said he was scared by their plans. “I've been working for 30-plus years to obtain” benefits, “and it would not be fair.”

“In my opinion the Republicans are very unyielding and not willing to take a look at the whole picture to benefit everybody,” Mr. Turton said. “It is a very elitist attitude toward things.”

But Mr. Ryan did have a number of supporters, even if, taken together, they were less vocal at times during his speech than those who shouted criticisms.

In an interview before Mr. Ryan spoke, Martha Brown, a medical researcher from Michigan, said she appreciated Mr. Obama's view that Social Security and Medicare are benefits that workers have earne d through paying into the programs for many years. But she said she was frustrated that he spun out only what she said were dire possibilities to describe what would happen under Republican alternatives.

“Three-quarters of what he said was a lie,” Ms. Brown said, referring to the speech Mr. Obama had just given over a satellite link.

“He lied about what the Republicans want to do with their voucher program,” she said. “He said, ‘It could lead to this, it could lead to that' â€" he was inventing scenarios that were totally negative. But when people hear it from the president, they believe it is true.”