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Why Paul Ryan represents a big gamble for Romney

August 11, 2012 by Scott Bomboy


GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has named House budget maven Paul Ryan as his running mate, in what comes down to a big gamble on Medicare  in the presidential election.

The official announcement came Saturday morning, on Romney’s website and mobile app.

In picking Ryan, Romney is getting someone who is leading the Republican cause for budget reform in Congress and who could deliver Wisconsin to Romney, changing the math of the election.

But Ryan’s history with Medicare reform is the downside to the gamble. If Florida, with its older population, goes to the Democrats, the gain of Wisconsin does little to help Romney.

Currently, according to the current consensus electoral count map at Real Clear Politics, President Barack Obama has 247 electoral votes out of 271 needed to win the election, with 100 votes undecided in swing states.

Wisconsin has 10 electoral votes and is currently listed as an Obama state. If Ryan can bring Wisconsin into the GOP category, President Obama would need 34 electoral votes to win.

Florida has 29 electoral votes, so if Florida goes to the Democrats, Obama would just need to take one of six swing states (Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia) to win the election.

Currently, Obama has widening leads in Ohio and Nevada.

The true gamble in Romney’s pick

By choosing a budget reform candidate with clear ties to overhauling Medicare, the Romney camp is betting it can make the election a referendum on government spending and the economy.

In 1980, candidate Ronald Reagan had success on a platform of downsizing government. But tackling Medicare will be a tricky political task.

Ryan’s plan is to move Medicare to a voucher system that allows people to pick their own care provider, or remain in overhauled Medicare (potentially at a higher cost). Ironically, some of the care providers could be group insurers similar to those set up under the Affordable Care Act demonized by the Republicans.

Politico breaks down Ryan’s proposed Medicare changes, which keep other aspects of the Affordable Care Act, under different names. But the plan also depends on overturning the Affordable Car Act in the next Congress.

So Romney and Ryan will need to convince older voters that Medicare reform is in their best interest, since current Medicare users can keep their plans.

The Ryan plan’s core tactic is to use the government-issued vouchers as a carrot for insurers, who would offer lower rates to seniors as part of a free-market argument.

In 2010, seniors voted at a higher rate than the younger population, according to U.S. News & World Report, with 61 percent voting in the elections, compared with 46 percent of the whole population.

The states with the oldest voter population turnout included Colorado, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In July, Obama was already on the campaign trail in south Florida attacking Medicare reform.

The New York Times previewed a debate we will all be hearing about for the next few months:

“How many people think that’s a good idea? To finance tax cuts for folks who don’t need them and weren’t even asking for them? So Florida, that is wrong. It’s wrong to ask you to pay more for Medicare so people who are doing well right now get even more,” Obama said at an event in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Romney was quickly responding on three Florida radio stations.

“The president is extraordinarily out of touch with how America’s economy works and with how individuals pursuing their dreams in this country have built America,” he told a Tampa station. “The president thinks that it’s government that should take responsibility for all the successful businesses in this country.”

How Romney can manage the Medicare message in states like Florida and Colorado will be key to his election chances.

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