When Mitt Romney chose -- or was told to choose -- Paul Ryan as his running mate, he had to realize he'd be pressed on Medicare. After all, the far-right House Budget Committee chairman is widely recognized as the guy who wants to end Medicare and replace it with a voucher program. Romney and his advisors surely knew questions about this were coming, and had some time before Saturday's announcement to come up with their position.
Apparently, Team Romney hasn't come up with much.
Romney was in Miami yesterday -- where there are apparently a few senior citizens -- and fielded several questions about the differences between his Medicare plan and that of his running mate. The Republican presidential hopeful struggled badly.
"[M]y plan for Medicare, it's very similar to his plan for Medicare, which is do not change the program for current retirees or near retirees, but do not do what the president has done, and that is to cut $700 billion out of the current program," Romney eventually said.
Let me try to explain this in a way Romney will understand: if the Romney plan is the same as the Ryan plan, and the Ryan plan includes Obama's Medicare savings, then the Romney plan includes the same Obama policy that Romney is condemning.
Romney can support the president's policy that strengthens Medicare, or he can oppose the president's policy that strengthens Medicare, but he can't support and oppose the same policy at the same time.
Being president is really difficult; understanding the basics of the Medicare debate is pretty easy. In this case, either Romney has absolutely no idea what he's talking about after six years of running for president, or he thinks voters are ignorant fools.
Ryan's ambitions of privatizing Medicare and Social Security out of existence will make it difficult for Romney to compete in the Sunshine State (and Iowa and Pennsylvania, which also have large elderly populations). If the Republican ticket is going to overcome its self-imposed problems, it's going to have to do better than it did yesterday.