Paul Ryan, a champion of changing Medicare, spoke as a passionate defender Saturday, promising seniors that he and Mitt Romney would save it.

He introduced his 78-year-old mother to Florida voters to drive home the point that the health program ‘was there for our family’ and ‘we have to keep that guarantee.’

Meanwhile Barack Obama, who is campaigning in New Hampshire, castigated the Republican presidential ticket for peddling ‘trickle-down snake oil’ in the form of tax cuts for the rich.

Obama’s particularly fierce words came after the GOP vice presidential hopeful accused the President of using Medicare as a ‘piggybank’ for his health care law. Ryan tried to strike a careful balance on the subject in his speech at a sprawling retirement community.Ryan says Medicare will be protected for people in and near retirement, and he wants to see younger generations offered alternatives to the entitlement.

On the Democrat campaign, Obama was casting the choice Election Day as one between two fundamentally different approaches to the government’s responsibility to its citizens and who pays the bill.

His approach of casting Romney’s plans as a giveaway to the rich was familiar but seemed to have a particularly sharp bite.

‘They’ve been trying to sell this trickle-down snake oil before,’ Obama told an audience in Windham, N.H. ‘It did not work then. It will not work now. It will not reduce the deficit, it will not create jobs. It’s the wrong direction for America.’

And as Ryan took the stage in The Villages with his mother Betty Ryan Douglas, Romney scheduled a series of fundraisers in Massachusetts.

The Wisconsin congressman said he saw Medicare’s benefits firsthand as a child when his grandmother, with Alzheimer’s, moved in with his family. ‘My mom and I were her two primary caregivers,’ Ryan said before shifting to his mother and the promise of Medicare for her.

‘She planned her retirement around this promise,’ Ryan said. ‘That’s a promise we have to keep.’

‘It’s not just a program,’ he added. ‘It’s what my mom relies on.’

He accused Obama of undermining Medicare by cutting billions from the program to devote to expanded coverage under his health care law, and asserted: ‘We want this debate. We need this debate. And we are going to win this debate.’

Older Americans have often resisted changes in Medicare, the federal health care insurance program for people 65 and older, and for the disabled.

The Romney-Ryan ticket is betting that voters’ worries about federal deficits and the Democrats’ health care overhaul have opened the door for a robust debate on the solvency of Medicare, one of the government’s most popular and costliest programs.

In the week since Romney announced Ryan as his running mate, Medicare and Social Security have appeared as a driving issue. Florida, Pennsylvania and Iowa are among the top five states in the percentage of people 65 and over, and all three are closely contested this election.Polling generally finds that the public places more trust in Democrats’ ability to handle Medicare. People also generally oppose plans to replace the current program with one in which future seniors receive a fixed amount of money from the government to be used to purchase health coverage, according to polls.Ryan, a deficit hawk who has stood out in Washington for laying out tough spending choices that many lawmakers in both parties avoid, proposes to preserve the traditional Medicare program but only as one of many options for future retirees.


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