By Craig Robinson
When Mitt Romney selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate back in August, political pundits and many in the media questioned Romney’s selection because of Ryan’s proposal to reform Medicare could be unnecessary baggage for the Republican ticket.
Republicans were ecstatic with the selection of Ryan, a young, articulate, and thoughtful reformer, to be Romney’s running mate. Not only does his relative youth give Republicans a glimpse of the future, but his willingness to have serious discussions about entitlements is refreshing in modern politics. Still, none can forget the liberal attack ad that portrayed Ryan pushing a wheelchair bound grandmother off a cliff. Many speculated that with Ryan on the ticket, President Obama and the Democrats would make hay with Ryan’s Medicare proposal.
Medicare has been an issue in the campaign, but not like most of the talking heads expected. The recent TIR-Voter/Consumer Research poll shows that the Medicare issue isn’t quite the silver bullet Democrats thought it would be, which might explain why some Republican congressional candidates are the ones who want to discuss the topic.
The TIR/VCR poll asked Iowans what position is closest to theirs on the issue of Medicare. One option participants could choose was that Medicare costs are going up too fast and it will run out of money in the near future and major reforms are needed. Another option was that Medicare is in good shape, only needs minor reforms to keep going, and that politicians are just trying to scare seniors. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that major reform is needed, while only 35 percent said that Medicare needed minor reforms.
The poll suggests that people are finally starting to recognize that the country must deal with Medicare. Not only do 57 percent of Iowans recognize the need for major reforms of Medicare, but so do nearly half of all seniors.
The TIR/VCR poll showed 45 percent seniors age 65 and above said that major reforms are needed for Medicare. An equal percentage, 45 percent, said minor changes are needed. The support for major reform of Medicare increased as age decreased. Fifty-seven percent of persons age 45 to 64 believed major reform is needed. In the under 45-age group, the percentage that supported major reforms to Medicare jumped to 66 percent.
With a majority of Iowans and almost half of seniors supporting major reform of Medicare, two Republican congressional candidates in Iowa have used the Medicare issue in recent television ads.
Congressman Steve King’s most recent TV ad says that the only way to strengthen Medicare is to repeal Obamacare. King then states that Obamacare cuts $716 billion dollars from Medicare. This ad is interesting because it allows King to attack the President’s government run healthcare program, while also communicating to seniors that he wants to strengthen Medicare, not end it, and not take money from it to pay for other programs.
The other Republican congressional candidate making Medicare an issue in his race is Ben Lange in Iowa’s 1st District. Unlike King, Lange is a challenger who is using the $716 billion in Medicare cuts to criticize his opponent, Democrat Congressman Bruce Braley, who voted in favor of the cuts.
Lange’s ad, “Honor the Promise,” goes after Braley for being dishonest about his position on Medicare. Lange uses his 62-year old father as an example in the ad. Lange states, “My own father just turned 62. He’s depending on Social Security and Medicare and, like millions, he paid into the system and we must honor that commitment.”
Lange then goes on to say that he supports plans that will strengthen Medicare. Lange promises, “no cuts in benefits, no tax increases, and any plan will be totally voluntary.” Lange has effectively made himself the candidate that will protect Medicare, which has turned conventional wisdom from previous elections on its head.
It is remarkable that an issue that many thought would work against Republicans in the 2012 elections has become an issue that hurts Democrats. The poll numbers suggest that Iowans are beginning to understand the seriousness of our nation’s debt crisis. They also seem to realize that the only way to keep Medicare is to make necessary changes. I don’t think anyone would have ever expected Republicans to have an upper hand on the issue of Medicare in the 2012 election, but that is exactly what seems to be happening.
blog comments powered by Disqus