Forecast

Will the Medicare debate help Obama or Romney?

Both Democrats and conservatives are giddy over Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, and for the same reason: A looming Medicare battle

Mitt Romney "is taking a colossal risk" by choosing House GOP budget chief Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate, says Nate Cohn in The New Republic. Older voters like Medicare the way it is, and Ryan's proposed massive overhaul of the entitlement program could alienate senior-heavy states like Florida, killing Romney's White House chances. But at least for now, both sides are welcoming the fight over Ryan's controversial budget and plan to fundamentally transform Medicare "from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan," says John Dickerson at Slate. So, which candidate will really benefit from a big debate over Medicare policy?

Americans are ready for Ryan's plan: "The Obama campaign and liberal super PACs are set to dust off those 'Mediscare' TV ads showing Paul Ryan tossing grandma over the cliff," says Stephen Moore in The Wall Street Journal. But it won't work this time. Ryan's "got the facts and the math on his side," and voters are finally ready to have an "adult conversation" about reforming entitlements. When they learn that Ryan's plan saves Medicare, not kills it, Romney will not only keep seniors but may even win over "young voters who understand they get stuck with the tab" under the status quo.
"Mediscare: The sequel"

Ryan is a gift to Democrats: You'll continue to hear "cheerful, defiant statements" from Republicans about how Romney is a genius to tap Ryan and turn the race into "a serious, far-reaching debate" about Medicare and the budget, say Alexander Burns, Maggie Haberman, and Jonathan Martin at Politico. But "don't buy it." Off the record, most GOP pros are terrified not only that Romney has "practically ceded the election" but also "that Ryan's vocal views about overhauling Medicare will be a millstone for other GOP candidates in critical House and Senate races."
"GOP pros fret over Paul Ryan" 

May the best demagogue win: Ryan's plan and Obama's actual policy, through ObamaCare, are "not diametrically opposed," says Kate Pickert at TIME. In fact, both seek to constrain Medicare's growth to the same rate, and a "robust debate" about their very different, unproven tactics to do so would be great for America. Sadly, it won't happen this election. Instead of nuance and substance, "expect Romney-Ryan and Obama-Biden to compete to see who can demagogue health care the best" for the next three months. Ugh.
"Ryan vs. Obama on Medicare: Why we won't have an actual debate..." 

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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