Obama brings Medicare duel to Granite State
Windham, New Hampshire (CNN) -- Following a week of dueling Medicare ads, President Barack Obama traveled to the swing state of New Hampshire Saturday to drive home the point that he and his Republican challengers have very different views on how to save the health care program.
"You'd think they'd avoid talking about Medicare given the fact that both of them have proposed to voucherize the Medicare system, but I guess they figure the best defense is to try to go on offense," he said.
In a crowded high school gym in southern New Hampshire - one of the eight states that CNN rates as a November toss-up - the president touted his own administration record on Medicare.
"Since I've been in office I've strengthened Medicare." he said. "I've made reforms that have extended the life of the program, that have saved millions of seniors with Medicare hundreds of dollars on their prescription drugs. The only changes to your benefits that I've made on Medicare is that Medicare now covers new preventive services like cancer screenings and wellness visits for free."
In contrast, Obama argued, his opponents' plan would force seniors to pay an extra $6400 a year for their health care "so they can give another tax cut to millionaires and billionaires."
Meanwhile, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was in another battleground, Florida, speaking on Medicare in the country's largest retirement community.
"Medicare was there for our family, for my grandma when we needed it. Medicare is here for my mom when she needs it now and we have to keep that guarantee," he said after introducing his mother, who joined him at the event. "She planned her retirement based around this promise that the government made her because she paid her payroll taxes into this program that she had this promise with. That's a promise we have to keep."
He also returned the volley of criticism, charging that Obama "raids $716 billion dollars from the Medicare program to pay for the Obamacare program." The independent fact checker Politifact.com has rated this charge "mostly false," pointing out the amount is projected future spending reductions reached through cutting payments to providers.
Beyond the campaign trail, the campaigns exchanged blows over Medicare this week in television advertisements. Three days after a Romney campaign ad warned seniors, "You paid in to Medicare for years... Now, when you need it, Obama has cut $716 billion dollars from Medicare," Obama rebutted with an ad urging voters to "get the facts." A Romney spokeswoman replied that the Obama ad "gets the facts wrong."
New Hampshire and its four electoral votes are getting plenty of attention this election cycle. President Obama has already been to the state three times this year. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will campaign together in the state on Monday.
A WMUR Granite State Poll released Monday shows Obama and Romney in a neck and neck race in New Hampshire: 49% of likely voters favor Obama and 46% support Romney, a margin well within the poll's sampling error.