The clearest lie is to keep spreading the deception that Ryan's plan, which is really the Wyden-Ryan plan that the Oregon Democrat is co-sponsoring, will affect current retirees. Ryan explicitly keeps Medicare the same for those 55 and older well leaving time for those under 55 to adapt to planning for a premium support plan.
The other lie is the implicit one that assumes Medicare will be there for everyone in the future just as it has been. Medicare as we have known it is already done. Obamacare took half a trillion dollars from a plan that was already heading towards fiscal insolvency.
The WSJ hits the talking points that Romney and Ryan and their surrogates need to make to counter the Mediscare attacks.
Democrats will nonetheless roll out their usual attack lines, and the Romney campaign will have to be more prepared for them than they were for the Bain Capital assault. There's no excuse in particular for letting the White House claim that Mr. Ryan would "end Medicare as we know it" because that is demonstrably false.The Obama campaign will keep up the Mediscare ads and attack lines and the media won't call them on any of this. So it's up to the Romney-Ryan campaign to do it for themselves. Fortunately, they have the very best guy out there to explain this clearly and honestly. He's been going around giving powerpoint presentations in townhall meetings to people of both parties to explain the fix we're in and what needs to be done.
Late last year, Mr. Ryan joined Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in introducing a version of his reform that explicitly retains Medicare as we know it as a continuing option. The reform difference is that seniors would for the first time also have a choice of government-funded private insurance options. The Wyden-Ryan belief is that the choices resulting from private competition will be both cheaper and better.
This "premium-support" model has a long bipartisan pedigree and was endorsed by Democratic Senators John Breaux and Bob Kerrey as part of Bill Clinton's Medicare commission in 1999. Wyden-Ryan is roughly the version of reform that Mr. Romney endorsed earlier this year.
Our advice is that Mr. Romney go on offense on Medicare. He could hit Mr. Obama with ads in Florida and elsewhere for his $716 billion in Medicare cuts, and his plan to cut even more with an unelected rationing board whose decisions under ObamaCare have no legislative or judicial review. Then finish the ads with a positive pitch for the Romney-Ryan-Wyden reform for more patient and medical choice.
If I were the campaign director of the Romney-Ryan team, I'd send Paul Ryan down to The Villages in Florida and to Palm Beach and to five or six places where they can bring in a lot of seniors. Then have Ryan go through his presentation. Have him answer questions until there are no more questions. The national media might not cover it, but the local media would. They haven't ever seen something like a major party candidate doing something like that. The Romney team can put the whole show up on the internet or hand out DVDs in retirement communities.
Remember how people ate up Ross Perot's straight talk and series of charts in 1992? And Ryan Paul is not a crazy billionaire.
When people are told that the plan doesn't affect those over 55, polls show that they will support it. They don't know that Obama took $700 billion out of Medicare and put it towards Obamacare. Obama made Medicare's insolvency worse than it was and it was already bad. They don't know that Medicare is unsustainable as it is. As Jay Cost writes,
Put another way: Because Obamacare already messes with entitlements, there is greater urgency for reforming the entitlement system. That is, Obama and Biden are the ones who touched entitlements, and Romney and Ryan are coming in to fix them.The Republicans know the media won't spread that message so they need to do it themselves. And the man who designed the plan is also very, very good at explaining it to skeptical audiences.
There is more to the story. The coming debate over Medicare feeds into the larger theme that Team Romney has clearly been developing -- and it gets to why I think Silver and Crowley are wildly off base.
Romney has been hinting at this message for some time: Under the presidency of Barack Obama, the United States has fallen into decline. The entitlement problem hasn't just remained the same; the problems have been exacerbated.
The country needs real changes to restore American greatness. A vote for Obama-Biden is a vote for unsustainability. A vote for Romney-Ryan is a vote for change, and therefore hope that America's best days are ahead. Or, we might say, Team Romney is all about hope and change -- a campaign theme that is known to work rather well!
The WSJ adds in the recommendation that the Romney campaign have Ryan sit for a series of interviews as well as the sort of campaigning in states with large senior populations that I recommend.
In the coming days, the Romney campaign should let Mr. Ryan sit down for some long, live interviews with the press, even questioners whose idea of tough journalism is asking who is the President of Uganda. That includes letting him campaign in states like Florida, Iowa and Pennsylvania with large senior populations. Voters need to see him respond to the worst claims about Medicare and tax cuts for the rich.I bet that people will be impressed with his honest presentation of the fiscal cliff we're heading off and how Medicare expenses fit into that picture. They will appreciate his sincerity and general niceness. They will understand that his plan doesn't threaten their retirement but works to help their children and grandchildren face a more secure future. And he will win them over.
There's always a risk that Mr. Ryan will make a mistake, but he can't possibly do worse on that score than Joe Biden. The bigger mistake would be running away from those false accusations. That's when voters begin to suspect the criticisms might be right. Far better to take them head on.
Mr. Romney's advisers are portraying Mr. Ryan's selection as a politically substantive contrast to Mr. Obama's strategy of small-minded attacks that distract from his economic record. If they really believe that, then by all means put Mr. Ryan's substance front and center for all to see.
UPDATE: I see that the Romney team is taking the exact opposite path and keeping Ryan out of Florida. I think that is a big mistake. It makes them look like they are running scared of seniors instead of trusting their message. Now expect a lot of the coverage of Romney's trip to Florida to focus on why they didn't bring Ryan along. I hope they recover from this mistake and change course. Don't concede the high ground. That's always a path to defeat.
UPDATE II: I take back my qualms from my first update. According to Stephen Hayes, who has been pretty clued in to all things related to Wisconsin politicians, Ryan will be traveling to central Florida to go on the offense to make the case for his reforms to Medicare.