The Romney campaign is up with yet another ad accusing Obama of raiding Medicare of $716 billion to pay for Obamacare, while claiming the Romney-Ryan plan would “restore” Obama’s cuts and strengthen the program. It’s clear that this claim will continue to be central to Romney’s case for the presidency.

For some reason, Jackie Calmes of the New York Times decided it might be a good idea to call up a range of experts and ask them if Romney’s claim is, you know, true. And they say Romney’s plan would actually make Medicare insolvent sooner and drive costs up for seniors:

The 2010 health care law cut Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and insurers, not benefits for older Americans, by that amount over the coming decade. But repealing the savings, policy analysts say, would hasten the insolvency of Medicare by eight years — to 2016, the final year of the next presidential term, from 2024.
While Republicans have raised legitimate questions about the long-term feasibility of the reimbursement cuts, analysts say, to restore them in the short term would immediately add hundreds of dollars a year to out-of-pocket Medicare expenses for beneficiaries. That would violate Mr. Romney’s vow that neither current beneficiaries nor Americans within 10 years of eligibility would be affected by his proposal to shift Medicare to a voucherlike system in which recipients are given a lump sum to buy coverage from competing insurers...
Marilyn Moon, vice president and director of the health program at the American Institutes for Research, calculated that restoring the $716 billion in Medicare savings would increase premiums and co-payments for beneficiaries by $342 a year on average over the next decade; in 2022, the average increase would be $577.

The reason for this, Calmes notes, is that beneficiaries share the cost of Medicare with the government; if the cost of the program goes up, so do premiums and co-payments. What’s more, repealing Obamacare — which Romney and Ryan have vowed to do — would also drive costs up for some seniors up by getting rid of expanded coverage for prescription drugs and preventive care.

As I noted here yesterday, the real intent of the Romney Medicare attacks is to obfuscate, rather than clarify, the actual differences between the two candidates over what to do about the program. The Romney/Ryan camp, for all their pretensions otherwise, doesn’t actually want this campaign to be driven by a “great debate” over a genuine “clash of ideological visions.” Rather, they want to obscure the true nature of their ideological differences with Obama. But this story is leading the New York Times right now, and it may help clarify the debate, despite the Romney camp’s best efforts to spread smoke and dust around.

What’s striking is how rare such stories are. Despite this election being all about the economy, when is the last time a news organization led with a story quoting a range of experts on the question of whether their plans would actually alleviate the short term economic crisis?

* Associated Press hints at Romney race-baiting: Along those lines, credit where credit is due. The AP is out with a new article dissecting the dishonesty of Romney’s welfare attack. The story is careful about it, but it raises the racial angle:

It could open Romney up to criticism that he is injecting race into the campaign and seeking to boost support among white, working-class voters by charging that the nation’s first black president is offering a free pass to recipients of a program stereotypically associated with poor African-Americans.

The welfare and Medicare attacks are linked. Both are about sowing resentment among struggling middle class Americans by suggesting Obama is taking away what’s rightfully theirs and redistributing it downward; the subtext is that his sympathies lie elsewhere.

* Obama campaign keeps hitting Romney on education: The Obama campaign is out with a new ad airing in Ohio and Virginia that hits Romney over the Ryan budget’s cuts to education — with the focus not on college kids, but on parents worrying about class size.

The casts Romney as out of touch, with the mom saying: “These are all issues that really he personally cannot relate to — to be able to afford an education, to want the very best public education system for your children.”

As noted here yesterday, Dems see the Ryan education cuts as a fat target, along with Medicare. The issue resonates among key constituencies — Latinos and non-college white women — and gives Obama more ammo to dramatize how the Romney/Ryan priorities would impact real people.

* Still no Ryan bounce: A new Associated Press poll finds the presidential race remains tight, with Obama at 47 percent and Romney at 46 percent, little changed from last month. As Rachel Weiner notes, we’ve now seen several national polls with little to no evidence of any bounce from the Ryan pick.

* On Todd Akin, Romney is leading from behind: Steve Kornacki charts Romney’s shifting response to the Akin mess, from his tepid initial statement to his call on Akin to withdraw, after many other GOP voices had done the same. As Kornacki notes, Romney “chose to take the temperature of conservative leaders first, then adjusted his behavior accordingly,” a useful indication of how he would govern as president.

* Is the upper midwest tightening? Republicans and their media supporters have been spinning that Michigan and Wisconsin could go to Romney, proof that he’s gaining big time, but Erin McPike explains what this is really about:

There’s a high degree of skepticism in some Republican circles about whether any of these states will truly be in play this fall. But given Romney’s growing fundraising advantage over Obama, the ultimate effect of this shift may simply be to force the president to spend more money defending his shrinking lead there.

Of course, given that financial advantage, the need for Obama to spend more money there could loom large.

* But Romney may be gaining in some swing states: Nate Silver delves into the most recent swing state polls and finds that Romney is likely gaining at least some ground, though there are plenty of caveats, and Silver’s model still gives Obama a 67 percent chance of winning.

* Newsweek and Niall Ferguson keep taking hits: Newsweek editor Tina Brown is more or less standing by Niall Ferguson, despite his distortion of the CBO’s findings about Obamacare, which looked very much like a deliberate attempt to mislead the readers of Brown’s magazine.

As Dylan Byers notes, Ferguson has yet to respond to a central charge against him, i.e., that he deliberately edited another portion of the CBO report to cover up his previous deception.

* No, Romney hasn’t explained how he’d pay for tax cuts: The Romney campaign is again pushing back on that Tax Policy Center study. But as the Post editorial board notes in a good response, no matter how many times the Romney camp claims otherwise, it has not explained how his plan’s tax cuts (which would disproportionately benefit the rich) would be paid for.

Romney’s “just trust me” campaign seems to be operating from the position that stated intentions are the same as policies.

* And behold Ryan’s definition of foreign policy experience: I’d missed this, but Ryan actually justified his lack of foreign policy experience by saying: “I voted to send people to war.” Joe Conason says everything that needs to be said.

What else?