President Obama speaks at a campaign event at the Prime Osborn Convention… (Susan Walsh / AP Photos )
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Pivoting back to policy after a relentless focus on Mitt Romney’s personal finances and business connections, President Obama began a two-day campaign jaunt to Florida with a warning to the state’s most potent block of voters that his rival would undermine Medicare if elected.
Speaking in Jacksonville on Thursday afternoon, the president linked the future of the federal health entitlement for seniors to Romney’s resistance to allowingGeorge W. Bush-era tax rates to expire as scheduled at year’s end, and his intention to cut taxes and domestic programs even further.
A report released by the campaign in advance of Thursday’s visit stated that Romney would “end Medicare as we know it to help pay for his tax cuts for the wealthiest.”
“He plans to turn Medicare into a voucher program. So if that voucher isn’t enough to buy the health insurance on the market, you’re out of luck. You’re on your own,” Obama told an estimated 3,000 people at a convention center here, a predominantly African American audience. “It’s wrong to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare just so millionaires and billionaires can pay less and less in taxes.”
Romney’s campaign countered that it was Obama who would “end Medicare as we know it.”
“He has offered no serious plan of his own to save Medicare and is content to use it as nothing more than a political issue,” said Lanhee Chen, the Romney campaign’s policy director.
The president’s discussion of Medicare and the Republican budget marks a return by the campaign to the issue. The so-called Ryan budget, a reference to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the House Budget Committee chairman, was at the heart of Obama’s first major speech targeting Romney in April, just as the Republican secured his hold on his party’s nomination.
Ryan is believed to be among the handful of Republicans Romney is considering as his potential running mate.
The turn to Medicare is an apt one in Florida, where Democrats say two powerful demographic groups -– Latinos and, more significantly, seniors-– could decide a tight race. Obama will likely amplify the attack Thursday evening when he campaigns at a retirement community in South Florida.
That’s not to say the president dropped from his pitch to voters any mention of Romney’s former financial firm, which he again noted had been called “pioneers in the business of outsourcing.” The inclusion of Medicare was a supplement, not a substitution for that in his stump speech.
“I want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing here in the United States, rewarding companies that are investing here and hiring American workers so that we can sell products around the world stamped with three proud words: made in America,” he said.
His campaign also highlighted Thursday’s Los Angeles Times report examining the initial financing behind Bain Capital when Romney founded the firm. Spokesman Ben LaBolt said it “adds to questions about Romney’s financial dealings and underscores his penchant for secrecy.”
Obama is due to fly from Jacksonville to West Palm Beach this evening. He’ll campaign in Fort Myers and Orlando on Friday.