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Medicare Debate Will Be Decided in Presidential Campaign

12:00 AM, Jun 15, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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But the larger point is this: Perhaps the most telling poll to date was released yesterday by CBS News. It shows that fewer than one in five respondents (19 percent) have “a good understanding” of the way the House Republican Medicare plan would work, while fully two-thirds (67 percent) currently find the proposal “confusing.” It shows that only 11 percent have heard or read “a lot” about the proposal, while more than five times as many (59 percent) have either not heard or read “much” about it (28 percent), or else have not heard or read about it “at all” (the largest subgroup, at 31 percent). Meanwhile, more than half of all respondents (53 percent) support “fundamental changes” to Medicare, compared to just over a quarter (27 percent) who support only “minor changes.” There is clearly recognition on the part of Americans that something must be done about our debt, and there is growing recognition that Medicare reform must be a part of that. Americans simply need to be persuaded that the reforms wouldn’t destroy Medicare. 

In short, this is not a debate that will be decided by a few (often highly misleading, mostly left-leaning) polls that ask people to evaluate the proposal long before they really understand it. Rather, it will be decided by how well and how effectively someone champions it over the long haul, in the months leading up to the 2012 election. 

Given that only 19 percent of Americans understand the proposal after Republican House members have been talking about it for almost 2-1/2 months, it will also rather clearly require an articulate and persuasive advocate at the presidential campaign level. Since none has, or is likely, to emerge, let’s put a finer point on it: This bold and long overdue display of leadership will likely require its author, Paul Ryan, to step out of his congressional role and champion the proposal as a presidential candidate — as only he can. While there are surely even better reasons for Ryan to enter the race, the success or failure of his Medicare proposal will likely hinge on that important decision as well.

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