When asked about the Medicare debate, Paul Ryan said "bring it on," according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Salena Zito. "It is a debate that we are starting and very confident in winning." With that bravado, you might imagine Mitt Romney's campaign high-fiving over a new ad about Medicare from President Obama's campaign that will air in eight swing states. ("The Ryan plan? AARP says it would undermine Medicare, and could lead to higher costs for seniors," the ad clams.) But the Romney campaign's game face is not so steady behind the scenes.
As Politico's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei report, the campaign is confident about winning only if the debate has a few rules. Rules like "don't actually talk about what Ryan would do to Medicare." Per Allen and VandeHei:
Advisers say the campaign has no plans to pivot from its previous view that diving into details during a general-election race would be suicidal...
The Romney strategy is simple: Hammer away at Obama for proposing cuts to Medicare and promise, in vague, aspirational ways, to protect the program for future retirees — but don’t get pulled into a public discussion of the most unpopular parts of the Ryan plan.
You can see that plan in action in the interview with the swing state newspaper. Ryan accuses Obama of "raiding" Medicare of $716 billion to pay for Obamacare, but does not mention that Ryan's own plan keeps those $716 billion in cuts to the program. Ryan is not quoted saying the word "voucher," though his plan would give seniors the option to get a voucher to pay for private insurance instead of being insured through Medicare. He also subtly revives the death panel:
"The Independent Payment Advisory Board is made up of 15 bureaucrats that are appointed by the president unelected, unaccountable, and their job is to put further price controls and cuts to Medicare providers, which will lead to even more denied services to current seniors."
Ryan told the Tribune-Review that he's not tweaking his proposals, but he doesn't actually say what those are, aside from "Repeal Obamacare, replace it with patient-centered health care."