In his first one-on-one interview since announcing Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney sought to put some distance between himself and Ryan's Medicare proposal.
Echoing his rhetoric on the campaign trail in recent days, Romney emphasized that he is the leader of the GOP ticket and that he does not agree with the Medicare cuts in Ryan's budget -- which are similar to the cuts in President Obama's health care bill.
"My commitment is, if I become President, I’m going to restore that $716 billion to the Medicare trust fund, so that current seniors can know that trust fund is not being raided and we’re going to make sure and get Medicare on track to be solvent long-term on a permanent basis," Romney said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning."
Republicans including Romney have fought back on Democrats' attacks on the Medicare overhaul in Ryan's budget plan by pointing to the $700 billion in estimated cuts to Medicare contained in Obama's health care law. Democrats, in turn, point out that many of the same cuts are contained in Ryan's plan.
But now Romney's campaign is saying that it would not push for those same cuts and emphasizing that Ryan's proposal is taking a back seat to that of the man at the top of the GOP ticket.
Romney's campaign blasted out the CBS interview to the press, complete with the headline: "Mitt Romney: I will restore Obama's Medicare cuts." And it has also taken care, in multiple interviews, to note which candidate is in charge.
"Congressman Ryan has joined my campaign, and his campaign is my campaign now," Romney said. "We're on exactly the same page."
Top Romney surrogate and former New Hampshire governor John Sununu noted much the same thing in a Monday interview on MSNBC.
"The Ryan plan mimicked part of the Obama package there," Sununu said. "The Romney plan does not. That’s a big difference.”
Sununu added, when pushed on the matter by host Chris Matthews: "I'm still with Romney, and Romney's plan -- forget Ryan's plan. ... Romney's is better."
The effort is designed to help Republicans create a clear contrast on the Medicare issue. By separating himself from the Ryan budget's Medicare cuts, Romney can now say that Democrats are cutting Medicare and he wouldn't.
Democrats will still argue that the GOP ticket favors a Medicare overhaul that could raise costs for seniors by turning the entitlement into a voucher program, and that main line of attack still stands. But now Republicans have a cleaner counter-argument.
Worth noting, however, is that restoring those cuts to Medicare would make meeting his budget goals significantly harder for Romney; expect him to be asked about this in the coming days. What's more, Democrats note that Republicans have labeled the Medicare cuts in their budget as coming out of waste and fraud, not benefits.
On its face, though, the question now is whether people are more afraid of $700 billion in Medicare cuts or turning Medicare into a voucher program.
We're guessing that neither seems like an appealing solution to people who, poll after poll shows, want politicians to 'keep your hands off my Medicare.'
But if Republicans can fight to a draw -- or close to one -- on the issue, that's probably a win for them, given that it was the one potential major drawback to adding Ryan to the ticket.