OXFORD, Ohio -- It was a strange place to talk about Medicare -- not a nursing home or before a group of seniors, but at a college campus where students beginning the school year may have different things on their minds.
“The president, I am told, is talking about Medicare today,” the Wisconsin congressman said as the crowd, standing in the heat of an Ohio late afternoon, booed. “We want this debate. We need this debate and we will win this debate.
“What I don’t think he’ll be telling people is that the president took $716 billion from the Medicare program – he raided it – to pay for Obamacare,” Ryan said.
The restraints on future spending, made by President Obama to fund his healthcare plan, were a central part of the budget Ryan proposed to Congress in April. The Mitt Romney campaign has vowed to restore the Obama cuts and recently launched a television commercial criticizing the president for the cuts in an effort to reach seniors. Romney said Wednesday that it was his plan for Medicare, not Ryan’s, that his campaign would push.
Ryan’s visit to Oxford is his first crack, solo, at the swing state. But the Romney campaign chose a safe place to test the waters with Ryan. Miami University is located in Butler County, near the Indiana-Ohio border. It’s a conservative county that overwhelmingly voted for John McCain in 2008, in the solidly Republican western part of the state. The county -- and the region -- also voted by a large margin for Sen. Rob Portman in 2010, who was in competition with Ryan to be Romney’s running mate.
Speaking before Ryan – and with Portman standing behind him -- Gov. John Kasich joked that Portman’s wife told him that the family didn’t need another vice president because their daughter is the vice president of her class. Portman then introduced Ryan, saying that the Romney-Ryan team “has got the experience, they’ve got the record, and they’ve got the policies to get America back on track.”
In his speech, Ryan also touched on the tough economic situation many college graduates are facing, telling the crowd that reducing the deficit would help create jobs.
“Do we want to go down the path we are on, the path of debt, the path of doubt, the path of decline?” he said. “Or do we want the ideas that will save the American idea?”
A handful of protesters interrupted a pre-Ryan rally on the large outdoor quad where the speech was held, shouting, “Hands off Pell Grants,” and holding signs that said, “Romney, Mr. 1%.”
Though people in the crowd – or most of them, anyway -- seemed to be fervent Romney-Ryan supporters, it’s the suburbs of cities such as Columbus and Cincinnati that will truly determine which way Ohio votes. The state is considered up for grabs after going for Obama in 2008 and then voting for Republican Gov. John Kasich over incumbent Ted Strickland in 2010.
Kasich angered many Ohioans by passing a bill to limit collective bargaining for public employees in the state -- unions were able to get a referendum on the ballot to overturn the bill, which was resoundingly supported by voters in November. Some analysts speculated that anger over Republicans’ treatment of unions, and unions’ organizational capacity from that ballot measure, would help Democrats this November.