Yuval Levin argues that the Obama campaign’s Medicare-based attacks on Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan aren’t working so far and are unlikely ultimately to succeed. But Levin bases these claims on his view of the dynamics of the argument, not on any data as to how voters perceive the matter.
Team Obama has only just begun its Mediscare campaign. Thus, it would be premature to underestimate the force of this attack, or even to declare either side ahead.
Still, Levin makes some good points. Although I think that he and others may overstate the extent to which this issue will turn on its merits, the Romney-Ryan team has four strong arguments that, because they are easy to understand, should hold up well. First, their plan doesn’t change Medicare for current seniors and near-retirees. Second, Obama has stripped more than half a trillion dollars out of Medicare. Third, without reform Medicare will go broke. Fourth, Obama has put forth no plan that can save Medicare.
According to Levin, the Democrats think they can trump these arguments because they have always been viewed as the Party that supports Medicare. Frighteningly, this might actually be true in an ordinary election. But with voters so unhappy with Obama, I doubt whether the electorate will reject his challenger as mindlessly as the Dems hope. Romney-Ryan should get what passes for a hearing on Medicare. So the four simple arguments set forth above probably cannot be brushed aside.
Finally, and along the same lines, Romney and Ryan probably don’t have to win the Medicare debate. If they can fight it to a standoff, then presumably the election will turn on other issues — notably, of course, the jobs and economy.
A standoff may well be doable.
JOHN adds: I share Paul’s concern about how rationally voters will view the Medicare debate. I would only add that if I were a Democrat, I would view the current focus on Medicare as a welcome distraction from the issues that are pure winners for the GOP: jobs, debt and economic growth.