A number of top Democratic strategists have wondered why, exactly, the Obama campaign let Mitt Romney launch the first attacks on Obama's handling of Medicare, rather than the other way around.
Among the explanations offered is the theory that the president's campaign wants to preserve its cash (which has been dwindling), that it is waiting until after the conventions to make this a major issue, and that it thinks the public so distrusts the GOP on the topic that it doesn't mind having the conversation center there, even if the Obama campaign is on the defensive.
That later point was bolstered in a Pew Research Center poll released on Tuesday, which showed that the public opposes the idea of changing "Medicare into a program that would give future participants a credit toward purchasing private health insurance coverage" by a margin of 49 percent to 34 percent. Moreover, 72 percent of respondents have heard a lot or a little about the idea, while just 29 percent say they heard nothing.
The margin between those opposing changing Medicare and those supporting a change is even greater among the elderly, with 55 percent of people 65 or older opposing the proposal and 24 percent supporting it. That is a large part of the reason that Romney and Ryan have pledged not to apply the changes to anyone 55 or older.
And yet, not all news is good news for the president on this front. While the public largely doesn't like a quasi-voucher system for Medicare, it also isn't entirely sure which politician has proposed it. As Pew notes:
At this point, most Americans do not associate Ryan with the proposal to change Medicare. Just 23% of those who have heard about the idea of shifting Medicare to a system of credits to buy private insurance identify it as Ryan’s. Nearly as many (17%) say Barack Obama proposed this, while 44% do not know who proposed it.
This post has been updated to clarify the Obama campaign's response to Romney's attacks.
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