WASHINGTON –- It's clear what the Obama administration wants Monday night's Republican presidential primary debate to be about: the impact of the Paul Ryan budget on Medicare.
A group closely associated with the president, Protect Your Care has bought TV time before, during and after the debate. They will run ads accusing Republicans of trying to "end Medicare."
Protect Your Care, which was founded this year to defend President Barack Obama's 2010 health care overhaul, called began running an eponymous ad on Sunday morning in the Boston market and on WMUR, the local channel in New Hampshire. PYC's spokesman, Eddie Vale, said the spot will air throughout the day Monday and Tuesday as well on those local stations, including during the debate.
The group is also buying ads on Google so that when Internet users search for terms related to the GOP debate, they will see PYC ads that link back to their website.
Vale wouldn't disclose exactly how much the group is spending on the ad blitz, but he said it is a six figure buy that is less than $500,000.
PYC's ad shows Julie Evans, an elderly woman who warns that "Seniors will have to pay $6,000 more" under the Republican budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). It was passed last month by the GOP-controlled House.
"You're looking for cuts? Why are you looking at us?," Evans asks. "This is something we've been counting on. We're not prepared for this."
But the idea that seniors would be caught unaware by sudden changes to Medicare is misleading, according to researchers at Politfact. Ryan's plan would not change coverage for current Medicare beneficiaries. If it became law this year –- and it won't because the Democratic-controlled Senate has already voted against it -– the changes would not kick in until 2022. Even then, those already in the program would not be affected.
The Ryan plan would, however, completely overhaul the current system. That's part of the reason why Obama-aligned groups are claiming that it would "end Medicare." Other progressives have said it would "end Medicare as we know it."
On the other hand, Ryan and Republicans allege that the budget would save Medicare.
PYC isn't the only group taking to the airwaves. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee -- as much a White House critic as Republican foe -- is running an ad targeting one lawmaker in particular: Rep. Charlie Bass. Democracy for America, the group founded by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, is co-sponsoring that ad campaign, which has been ongoing for more than a week and will continue past Monday night's debate.
Bass is one of the most vulnerable members of the House freshman class that handed control of the lower chamber to Republicans in 2010.
The New Hampshire Republican, who was a congressman for 12 years before losing his seat in 2006 and then came back to Congress this year, defeated his Democratic opponent last year by just 3,570 votes. He will face unrelenting attacks on his vote in favor of the Ryan budget from now until November 2012.
The PCCC ad shows Jane Bricket, a social worker in Lancaster, N.H., who says that if she "didn't have Medicare, doctor's bills could wipe me out, and put a burden on my five kids."
"When congressman Charlie Bass voted to end Medicare, that was an attack on New Hampshire families just like mine," the woman says.
This ad has already drawn the ire of Republicans. The National Republican Congressional Committee wrote a letter to Comcast and to WMUR demanding that they stop showing the ad, but it was rebuffed.
PCCC is spending $75,000 to air the spot in a more narrow window: just before, during and immediately after the debate. They've bought time on WMUR and on CNN in its New Hampshire and Washington markets.
"With these ads surrounding the debate, we're making clear that progressives are going on offense in 2012 in support of successful government programs, and that Republicans will be haunted by the ghost of Paul Ryan everywhere they go," said PCCC co-founder Adam Green.