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Obama, Romney trade barbs on Medicare

  |   Aug. 14, 2012 at 3:30 AM
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BEALLSVILLE, Ohio, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. presidential candidates traded Medicare and economy barbs as their battleground-state bus tours promised to stay focused on pocketbook issues Tuesday.

"We want to make sure that we preserve and protect Medicare," presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told a St. Augustine, Fla., rally before continuing to Miami and moving on to southern Ohio Tuesday.

Romney told reporters in Miami, "The truth is, we simply cannot continue to pretend like a Medicare [program] on track to become bankrupt at some point is acceptable."

Romney proposes offering retirees, starting in 2022, a choice between traditional Medicare and buying private health insurance, with premiums supported by Washington. He would eventually raise the Medicare eligibility age of 65 by a month a year.

At the news conference the former Massachusetts governor repeatedly declined to outline what differentiates his plan from that of running mate Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman.

"I'm sure there are places that my budget is different than his, but we're on the same page," Romney said. "As I've said before, we want to get America on track to a balanced budget. ... My plan for Medicare is very similar to his plan for Medicare."

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, in separate appearances, sought to contrast the two parties and link Romney with the congressional right wing of his party.

"Gov. Romney and his allies in Congress, they think that if we just get rid of more regulations on big corporations and give more tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans -- if we end Medicare as we know it, make it a voucher system -- then somehow this is all going to lead to jobs and prosperity for everybody," Obama said in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

"What's gutsy about giving millionaires another tax break? What's gutsy about gutting Medicare, Medicaid, education?" Biden said in Durham, N.C.

Obama proposes to shore up Medicare by changing how Washington pays healthcare providers and by raising premiums or copayments for some recipients.

Ryan, campaigned at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines Monday in jeans and cowboy boots.

"The reason President Obama isn't making it here from Council Bluffs is because he only knows left turns," Ryan told a crowd.

If Obama does stop by the fair, make sure you ask him, "Where are the jobs, Mr. President?" Ryan told the crowd.

Obama went to the fair Monday night, where he put on an "Iowa State Fair, nothing compares" baseball cap and shook hands with voters as he searched for a pork chop on a stick, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Romney Tuesday was to participate in a coal event in Beallsville, Ohio, a 409-person village where 18 percent of the population is below the poverty line, including 14 percent age 65 or over, 2010 U.S. Census figures indicate.

He was then to go to an ice cream shop in Zanesville, population 25,487, the Romney campaign said.

Ryan was to be in Las Vegas to meet with casino mogul and billionaire supporter Sheldon Adelson, and to hold a rally at a local high school.

Obama was to start Tuesday at the Nelson Pioneer Farm & Museum in Oskaloosa, Iowa, then deliver remarks at a middle school in Marshalltown. His day was to end at a campaign event in Waterloo.

Biden was to campaign in Danville and Wytheville, Va.

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