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Team Romney’s Bold PR Opportunity?
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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In my last couple blogs I talked about Team Obama’s PR woes over the infamous “you didn’t build that” comment. To the Democrats, it appeared the issue would never go away, until now (or so it seems). Enter Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the Vice-Presidential running mate pick by Mr. Romney last Saturday in Norfolk, Virginia. Almost immediately, Team Obama and most of the media went on the attack like a gaggle of starving hyenas sensing an easy kill. Did Mr. Ryan’s pick by Mr. Romney hand the Democrats a PR goldmine?
This observer is not sure, as is Karl Rove, who authored an article in the August 16, 2012 issue of The Wall Street Journal (a similar article also appeared online). The feeding frenzy and near-hysteria by Team Obama and the Democrats was due to Rep. Ryan’s proposals to make Medicare survivable beyond 2024...twelve years from now. Rove wrote Democrats “focused on Medicare, warning that Republicans ‘would end Medicare as we know it,’ making it ‘a voucher system" that costs seniors "thousands of dollars in health care costs.’”
Point is, without some sort of intervention, Medicare as we currently know it will cease to exist anyway. Republicans have always cowered in fear against Democratic PR salvos regarding the senior citizen health plan. Now, however, there may be a real opportunity for the Republican Party and Team Romney to score big on the PR front and to win in November. For perhaps the first time, Republicans are talking seriously on the issue rather than offering half-hearted rebuttals; the Romney-Ryan ticket is actually putting Team Obama on the defensive. Rep. Ryan is one of the few Washington insiders in today’s climate inside the Beltway to actually be able to work across the aisle. He has also advanced a proposal to make Medicare a two-tier system to keep it solvent.

Rove writes, “The president's [ObamaCare] legislation cuts Medicare by $716 billion to pay for ObamaCare. But because so many baby boomers are turning 65, Medicare is going broke. (Thanks in part to ObamaCare cuts, Medicare's hospital trust fund will be insolvent by 2024, according to the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees.)

“Rather than steal from the health-care program for seniors to finance expanding health care for younger Americans, Mr. Romney would repeal ObamaCare and return that $716 billion to Medicare to shore up its ragged finances…

“Mr. Ryan's plan has a different approach. While there would be no changes in Medicare for those 55 or older, starting in 10 years younger Americans would have a choice. They could either pick traditional Medicare or use the average amount of money the government spends on each Medicare enrollee to buy private insurance. The reasoning is based on a reliable truth: Competition will lower costs by using market forces to spur innovation and improvement.”

Rove wrote the approach of what is termed “premium support” already has been used, and with great success. Almost ten years ago, Congress restructured Medicare’s prescription drug benefit using this concept. He said, “Though more seniors signed up and used it more than expected, the Congressional Budget Office now says the 10-year cost of this popular drug benefit will be 43% less than it estimated in March 2004.”
This is the kind of argument Republicans can use successfully to reassure seniors that Medicare can and will continue. As he wrote, “It is said that in politics, if you're explaining, you're losing. That's not always true. Sometimes when you're explaining, you're reassuring voters and undermining your opponent's credibility.

“That's the case with this issue now. It's why Team Romney was smart to quickly run an ad attacking Mr. Obama for robbing Medicare to pay for ObamaCare.”

In politics as in real life, perception is often seen as reality. Previous perceptions regarding Medicare allowed Democrats to score PR victories over their Republican opponents. For perhaps the first time, Republicans can flack a plan, carefully thought out and proposed on the floor of the Congress by Mr. Ryan, that will keep Medicare running.

It appears that Team Romney’s PR campaign attacking Team Obama for robbing Medicare to pay for ObamaCare may be working. Mr. Romney’s pick of a younger, fiscally savvy, and courageous Republican who can tackle the scary issue of how to keep Medicare solvent as his running mate was indeed a gutsy, smart, and hopefully intelligent move. Stay tuned for continuing debate and PR campaigns regarding Medicare by both sides this Fall. And no, Mr. Obama, your PR woes regarding “you didn’t build that” are still there; they have not gone away.

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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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