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Campaigns both claim advantage on Medicare battle

Campaigns both claim advantage on Medicare battle
Emily Schultze/CNN
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Sunday, August 19, 2012 - 10:23pm

The political battle over Medicare, brewing since Mitt Romney named Paul Ryan as his running mate, showed no signs of easing Sunday, with operatives from each campaign claiming their side had an advantage with senior citizens concerned about their government-funded health benefits.

Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," said his campaign wasn't worried that seniors would be turned off by Ryan's House budget plan, which proposes allowing private insurers to compete with traditional Medicare on an exchange.

"Actually, it is not a concern," Fehrnstrom told CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta. "In fact, if you look at the last few days of the campaign, you will see that Paul Ryan was down in Florida, as you mentioned, with his mother talking about the Romney-Ryan plan to strengthen and protect Medicare."

Ryan campaigned at a large retirement community in Florida on Saturday alongside his mother, whom he first mentioned last weekend as being a Medicare recipient.

Fehrnstrom said 2012 marked the first year Democrats were on the defensive on Medicare, saying that Romney was better positioned to win the argument over Medicare since his proposed plan wouldn't affect current seniors.

"Whatever changes get made to Medicare under a Romney-Ryan administration, they will not affect the current seniors. And this president cannot say the same, because he went in and raided Medicare to pay for Obamacare," Fehrnstrom said.

Republicans have used that argument for the past week in attacking Obama's Medicare record, though the nonpartisan fact-checker Politifact.com has given a "mostly false" rating to the claim that President Barack Obama robbed Medicare of funds to pay for his sweeping health care law.

Politifact also offered a "true" assessment on an argument from Democrats that Obama's and Ryan's plans contained similar spending reductions. Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama, made that argument Sunday.

"Because Paul Ryan decided to join Mitt Romney's ticket, he is completely reversing himself on some of the issues he has been strong on, like $700 billion savings in two of the budgets," Cutter said, also on "State of the Union."

Cutter called Republican attempts to characterize the reduction in future spending as "raiding" Medicare "a complete distortion."

"They know that the $700 billion in savings had nothing to do with the senior benefits, but it expands the senior benefits," Cutter said, adding that Romney's plan to restore the money to Medicare would cause the system to go bankrupt more rapidly.

"If Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan get elected to the White House, Medicare will be bankrupt by the end of their first term is what that means, and these are facts," Cutter said.

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