My Friday question — can the Republicans win the Medicare debate? — set off a flood of responses. Some readers insist that Republicans really do want to knock off the old folks while the rich rake it in. (Judy_p01 writes: “I think the Republicans will surely win the message war if they make a point of explaining that Ryan’s plan contains a huge tax cut for the wealthy financed by destroying the Medicare system.”)

Others are shocked, shocked to hear that Democrats are saying such mean things. (tkoho: “What Democrats say republicans want to kill old people? Can you cite some specifics?”) Perhaps they missed the secretary of Health and Human Services.

The most interesting responses debated the merits of a “play as rough as the Dems do” and the “keep it high-minded” set.

On the former front, Larry 3435 writes:

If Republicans ACTUALLY wanted to kill old people, they could win very easily by just going along with the Democrats, who are actually GOING to kill old people by blocking any proposal to save Medicare. Demagoguery trumps reason. The Democrats will win. Nothing will be done. “Pay no attention to that death panel behind the curtain. I am the great and powerful Obama. Here, take this sawdust heart, and I’ll schedule you for an MRI in a couple of years.”

Mikebee1 likewise comments:

It is quite obvious that the GOP loses this battle if they are dumb enough to fight it on the Democrats’ terms. A “dry” scholarly response by Mr. Ryan and kindred spirits, no matter how erudite nor intellectually satisfying would be of little avail in face of a barrage of “Daisy” ads. . . . The fear which will be whipped up among the elderly is not irrational, [nor] is it easily soothed by professorial sermons nor spirited defences. The Republicans have two choices unless they indulge their well known “Death Wish”: Change the subject and desert or emasculate Mr Ryan? Unthinkable, but well within the craven performance of the “regulars” or..(and for me the ONLY strategy to employ...”OUT DAISY” them. Slug it out with compelling ads even meaner than the ones employed by the Dems, and explain over and over again the REAL dangers of Obama Care and its perils laying in wait for all of us, most especially the seniors. They must fight fire with TNT and just demolish those lying scoundrels..Can they do it? Sure, the truth is all that needs to be loudly and firmly and persistently hurled at the voters.and Sayonara Obama!

Meanwhile, others root for the scholarly approach. RickCaird writes: “Republicans can win this easily. All they have to do is take the trustee’s report showing the looming bankruptcy of Medicare. Couple that with the IPAB (rightly called death panels). Throw in a dash of how many doctors would actually treat Medicare patients if they face a 3/4 cut in reimbursement and, finally, season with a large portion of “do nuthin’” Democrats who are poverty struck when it comes to solutions for what is clearly an impending disaster..”

I favor the approach of pumblechook:

Republicans can win the Mediscare War, but they’ll need to thread the needle very carefully — this is the Dems home turf after all. But the left have given Republicans two breaks (so far), both of which result from their inability to control their excitement about latching on to what they think is a winning issue. First, they went on the attack way too early. There’s a full year-and-a-half until the next election — more than enough time for the emotional aspect of their accusations to be countered with a sober response (provided spooked GOPers don’t go wobbly first). Second, there’s the sheer hysteria of the accusations themselves. Republicans should carpet bomb airwaves with that clip of Paul Ryan pushing the old woman off the cliff, followed up with a short, direct response by Ryan himself about the trajectory of the program if no changes are made (makes the tie-in with going off that cliff all the more effective). No reasonable person, regardless of whether or not they support Ryan’s plan, can possibly see it as a scheme to “kill off old-people”. And the more Democrats make that claim and others like it, the less credibility they have on the issue. Republicans should tar the entire Democratic party with that vacuous ad as a means of highlighting their utter recalcitrance to engage the issue meaningfully.

Indeed, the GOP has both the right message and the right messenger.Let’s see if they can make use of both.