Dead Heat?

Medicare: Huge Democratic Problem

08.28.12 2:10 PM ET

I haven't seen a whole lot yet that makes me really and truly think that Mitt Romney can win this election, but this batch of numbers, some new Medicare polling, is the most  troubling sign I've seen so far by some distance. Steve Benen rounded them up yesterday. The long and short of it is that so far, Romney-Ryan have totally neutralized the "natural" Democratic advantage on the "who'll better protect Medicare" question.

A WashPost/ABC News poll actually gives Romney a 45-42 advantage over Obama. A CNN poll has it a statistical tie, with Obama ahead just 49-48. If the Obama campaign doesn't turn this around, defeat looms.

How did R-R do this? By lying, as I've noted. But it's obviously an effective lie. This now-famous $716 billion Obama "cut" to Medicare that Romney has been touting isn't really a cut, but savings designed to keep the program solvent for a little longer, and indeed, if Romney restores this money as he promises to, Medicare will be insolvent in 2016 instead of 2024, because it amounts to spending money in the Medicare Trust Fund at a faster rate.

I think if seniors understood that, they'd have a different view of the matter. But Romney has presented it to them as Obama taking money from them and giving it to the more highly melanined moocher class, and it's clearly working.

It was and remains a mystery to me why the Obama campaign didn't charge out of the chute the day Ryan was named with some smart, tough ads on Medicare. They produced some, but it took them a little while. Those few days may prove to be very costly.

The Ryan plan remains deeply unpopular in a number of polls, among the gen pop and and among seniors. The Obama campaign hasn't really dug into all that yet. And of course much will hinge on how this is discussed in the debates. Obama, who is probably not personally trusted by white seniors very much, needs some good, gray-haired, palefaced validators. He could lose the election on this alone if his campaign doesn't manage to build back an advantage of eight or 10 points on this.