Today’s big New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac poll found some good news for Barack Obama: In Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida, voters think Obama would do a better job than Mitt Romney handling Medicare by margins of eight to 10 points. Blowback against Paul Ryan?
Well, I’ve got the breakdown of these numbers among seniors, and they are far less encouraging for Obama: In two out of the three states, voters over 65 prefer Romney on Medicare, and in the third, Obama leads, but by a smaller margin. The breakdown sent over by CBS:
* In Florida, 48 percent of seniors say Romney would do a better job on Medicare, versus 44 percent who say that about Obama (the Ryan pick was supposed to be particularly problematic in this state).
* In Ohio, 49 percent of seniors say Romney would do a better job on Medicare, versus 43 percent who say that about Obama.
* In Wisconsin, 49 percent say Obama would do a better job on Medicare, versus 46 percent who say that about Romney. Close.
What’s striking is that the poll also finds very big majorities of seniors in all three states support leaving Medicare as it is, while small minorities support changing it so government provides fixed amounts to spend on insurance. In Florida, it’s 67-24; in Ohio it’s 68-22; and in Wisconsin it’s 60-25. Yet in two of the three states — ones that could decide the presidency — seniors support Romney over Obama on the issue. (A Post poll also found seniors view Ryan favorably by 50-35.)
In one sense, this may not be that big a deal. As Ed Kilgore has written, seniors have already become a very pro-Republican demographic in any case, and Ryan has only been on the ticket for a short time. But it still seems worth noting seniors’ willingness to trust Romney on Medicare, particularly given that his vice president is the chief architect behind the very type of changes they overwhelmingly oppose.
The Romney/Ryan strategy is premised on two claims: Obama raided $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare; and Romney/Ryan are the ones who would protect Medicare and preserve it as it is for seniors. As I’ve been saying, this all about o bfuscating the true nature of their differences with Obama over the program. (Jonathan Cohn has a terrific piece today explaining this in detail.) Seniors may be particularly receptive to this Romney/Ryan messaging. They have been bombarded with lies about Obamacare for years, and are perhaps more open to arguments that tar Obama on Medicare with the health law. And seniors are a key target of the Romney/Ryan argument, which is all about playing on the economic anxieties of working class and middle class voters by suggesting Obama wants to take away what’s rightfully theirs and redistribute it downwards.
But to hear experts tell it, the facts are clear: The Romney/Ryan plan would drive costs up for seniors; repealing Obamacare would take expanded benefits away from some of them; and Ryan’s changes would, over time, transform the core mission of the program that seniors say in overwhelming numbers they want left untouched. If that message isn’t getting through, that should concern the Obama campaign.