WASHINGTON, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Republicans can save the U.S. Medicare program Democrats want to gut, GOP campaign operatives say in a reversal of the traditional political polemics.
Kevin Madden, senior adviser to the campaign of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, defended Romney running mate Rep. Paul Ryan's charge that President Barack Obama "raided" $716 billion from Medicare to help pay for the 2010 healthcare reform.
"What President Obama did actually weakens Medicare," Madden told ABC's "This Week." "It takes $700 billion out of it and uses it to spend on a new entitlement, which is part of Obamacare."
A Romney-Ryan White House would "restore those cuts ... to make it more solvent," he said of the federal program guaranteeing health insurance to Americans 65 and older and younger people with disabilities.
The Obama campaign argued the $716 billion in savings comes largely from eliminating waste, fraud and future payments to insurance companies, not from cutting health benefits to seniors.
"We were rooting out waste and fraud" in the Medicare system, Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter told CNN's "State of the Union."
The White House, she added, "used those savings to put it back into Medicare," she said.
Putting the money back into the system "means they're going to use taxpayer dollars to give subsidies to insurance companies, overpayments to insurance companies," Cutter said.
Restoring the $716 billion would also force Medicare to run out of money in four years, thus making it less solvent, not more solvent, Obama aides said.
They added that the amount of cuts Romney and Ryan are attacking Obama about were included in the GOP's 2013 budget written by Ryan and endorsed by Romney.
"We're happy to have a substantive debate, but we need some substance on the other side," Cutter told ABC's "This Week."
Senior Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told "State of the Union," "This is first election cycle I can remember in a long time where Democrats are on the defensive because of Medicare."
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who briefly considered a presidential run this year, was asked on CBS' "Face the Nation" if he thought it was a good political idea for the Romney campaign to shift its focus to Medicare from its earlier focus on the struggling U.S. economy and the 8-plus percent unemployment rate.
"It's either going to be one of the great political decisions or one of the political mistakes, but I think it's a gutsy one," he said.
"I hope it's the right decision," he said. "My instincts tell me it is. We're not going to know until the end if it was."