I've been covering Paul Ryan and his budget proposals for two years, yet this revelation was news to me:
"My mom is a Medicare senior in Florida. Our point is we need to preserve their benefits, because government made promises to them that they've organized their retirements around. In order to make sure we can do that, you must reform it for those of us who are younger. And we think these reforms are good reforms. [They] have bipartisan origins. They started from the Clinton commission in the late '90s."
A few thoughts. (1) This fact changes the messaging game considerably, in my view. While it's crucially important for Republicans to equip voters with the truth about Medicare and debt, Democrats will use emotional appeals and fear-mongering to cloud the facts. That Paul Ryan's own mother is a Florida senior on Medicare offers a golden opportunity for him to personalize the issue in his own right. I might recommend cutting a full minute-long television ad featuring Ryan addressing the camera directly, flanked by his mother and his adorable young kids. He can explain that he is committed to guarding Medicare (with no changes) for current seniors (like his mom) and those nearing retirement because they've earned it and planned their retirements around it. But, he could add, these important programs are on the verge of insolvency, and future generations (like his kids) will inherit a much weaker country unless fiscally-responsible reforms for future seniors are enacted. This is a powerful message, and would help puncture the Obama campaign's demagoguery and dishonesty on a very personal and digestable level. If the Romney campaign does not blanket Florida's airwaves with these sorts of ads, they should be sued for political malpractice.
(2) The infamous Paul-Ryan-Throws-Grandma-Off-A-Cliff ad seems more repugnant than ever. Yes, it still advances a lie by eliding the fact that current and soon-to-be seniors are totally safe under the Republican plan. And it still tries to paint Ryan as a killer (a recurring theme, it seems). But now we know that based on the spot's deceitful message and imagery, Ryan would actually be wheeling his own mother over the edge. In fairness, there's a reasonable chance that the ad's producers didn't know that Ryan's mother is a Florida Medicare senior when the cut the spot. If the Romney/Ryan campaign highlights this fact, however, future insinuations that Ryan is on a mean-spirited, risky vendetta against seniors can be easily and emotionally neutralized.
(3) I liked Romney's decision to go on offense as soon as the Medicare question came up. Barack Obama already has cut over $700 Billion from Medicare -- not to shore up the program's spiraling solvency, but to partially fund a brand new, wildly expensive Obamacare entitlement. It's smart to hammer that point. I also think Romney and Ryan should hone in on another aspect of Obamacare: IPAB. The president's new unaccountable rationing board will exert huge authority over seniors' healthcare. Why does Obamacare include a rationing board for seniors' care? This argument is just as powerful as the $700 Billlion cut one. Incidentally, Team Obama is tripping over and contracting one another about Obama's historic Medicare slashes. Watch this clip, in which David Axelrod accuses Republicans of lying that the cuts ever happened, followed by Stephanie Cutter touting those very cuts as an Obama achievement. Oops:
Which is it, guys? Get your spin straight.
(4) Send Paul Ryan to Florida, early and often. Let him carry his own case to voters. Let him answer questions at townhalls. Run the ads I described above. The paleo-press is doing its very best to help save Obama's bacon. Just take a look at these headlines from Florida publications. The Romney/Ryan campaign must go on aggressive, sustained offense on this subject -- going over the heads of their two-headed opponent: The Democrats and the media. Republicans have the facts on their side and a very talented salesman. Use him.
(5) Guess what aired directly following the interview with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan on 60 Minutes? An in-depth report about people "trapped" in chronic unemployment. A perfect one-two punch against President Obama's failures.
UPDATE - The Romney campaign informs me that Paul Ryan will, in fact, be headed down to Florida for an extended tour next week.