In his second official speech of the campaign, Vice President Joe Biden’s retirement community address Friday in Coconut Creek was straight out of the age-old Democratic playbook: Accuse Republicans of wanting to “dismantle” Social Security and Medicare.
President Barack Obama’s running mate briefly discussed some of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and he pointedly avoided mentioning it by name on the second anniversary of its passage.
Biden spent more time bashing the budget-cutting plans of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who’s not on the ballot nationally, than the likely Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
“There is no daylight between Gov. Romney and Republican leaders on the most important issues facing this country,” Biden said. “Not even Romney’s Etch-A-Sketch can change that.”
The crowd laughed at the Etch-A-Sketch reference that has bedeviled Romney this week — ever since his campaign’s senior advisor suggested the Republican candidate could “reset” his message in the same way one can erase a picture on the old child’s art toy.
Most of Biden’s speech at Wynmoor Village was straightforward and sober, however. He suggested that Republicans want to use the country’s debt and financial crisis to dismantle Medicare and Social Security.
The substance of his speech was a clear indication that Obama will run as much against Romney as he will against congressional Republicans who support Ryan’s budget plan.
“The choice they made was, in order to ‘save the program’ they lowered the standard of living for those on Medicare,” Biden said. “Rather than asking the wealthiest among us to help deal with the problem.”
Biden made scant mention of the fact that most of Ryan’s budget cuts were reserved for the less-popular Medicaid program for the poor. And he didn’t clearly state that this year’s Ryan plan was supposed to give retirees a choice: stick with traditional Medicare or go into a voucher-like system to buy private insurance.
Last year, Ryan’s voucher plan was destroyed in the court of public opinion because, ultimately, it caps expenditures and helped Democrats argue that Republicans want to “end Medicare as we know it.”
Biden, pointing to a Politico article that detailed how Ryan used “poll-tested” words for this budget rollout, said there was little difference between this year’s plan and last year’s.
“If you take a look at it, they didn’t really change anything they were trying to do,” Biden said. “What’s the difference between these two budgets? It’s the way they talk about it.”
Republicans spent the day bashing the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed ObamaCare, and suggested Biden’s failure to mention it by name was a sign of how unpopular it was.
The Republican National Committee’s co-chair, Sharon Day of Broward County, said Biden wasn’t telling the truth.
“Even on the second anniversary of ObamaCare, he won’t tell voters the truth about the Democrats’ failed healthcare law,” she said in a written statement. “He won’t tell seniors about how they will lose coverage because of Medicare cuts or how unaccountable bureaucrats can now deny them care. He certainly won’t admit that he and President Obama have no plan to save Medicare and Social Security from bankruptcy.”
The sparring over entitlements is a rite of spring in an election season in Florida, the largest swing state with the largest population of elderly voters. Most major polls indicate that voters favor raising taxes over cutting entitlements, but they also show that Obama’s healthcare plan isn’t popular, either.
Though Biden spent most of his time bashing Ryan and Romney, he indicated that Republican candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would be just as tough on entitlement programs.
“Make no mistake,” he said, “if any of them get their hands on the keys to the White House, I promise you they will end Medicare as we know it.”