Byron York

And yet, in the midst of a continuing unemployment disaster, many Republicans are now debating, in public and among themselves, about how much Romney and Ryan should stress bringing runaway federal spending under control by restructuring Medicare and other entitlements.

After a few days of not mentioning Medicare, which is the focus of much of his budget reform proposal, Ryan recently began saying he's ready to fight over health care for the elderly. "This is a debate we want to have," he told a crowd in North Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 16. "This is a debate we need to have. And this is a debate we're going to win."

Both sides say they welcome the argument. But for Democrats, it's a godsend. "Any day talking about (Medicare) not jobs is a good day," the liberal journalist Jonathan Alter tweeted the same day Ryan spoke. And even if Democrats don't win the Medicare debate -- if Team Obama is only able to fight Romney to a draw -- that will mean a lot of good days not talking about unemployment.

There aren't that many good days in places where the jobless rate exceeds even the terrible national average. Places like Rocky Mount, N.C., where unemployment is 13.2 percent. Palm Coast, Fla., where it's 12.3 percent. Carson City, Nev., 11.8 percent. Pueblo, Colo., 11.2 percent. And those are just some examples from swing states.

It's not that Romney, and now Ryan, don't talk about joblessness on the stump. They talk about it a lot. And Romney made a great leap forward when he came up with his solutions-focused Plan for More Jobs and More Take Home Pay. But with Democrats desperate to avoid the topic, and the press showing little interest, it's up to Romney and Ryan to pound the issue of unemployment, hit it hard, over and over and over again, day after day after day. It's what matters most.


Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner