The Romney-Ryan ticket quickly went on the offensive on Medicare last month, hoping to overcome the unpopularity of the Republican policy. The strategy wasn't complicated -- attack President Obama for finding savings in the Medicare system, strengthening its finances, and expanding seniors' benefits -- and by most accounts, the GOP effort was effective.
But the strategy was still little more than a distraction, because Romney/Ryan can't and won't discuss their Medicare plan in any detail. Indeed, it'd be a disaster -- the American mainstream hates the idea of ending Medicare and replacing it with a voucher system.
The challenge for Democrats, then, is to broaden the debate -- defending the Obama administration's policy while bringing attention to the Republican plan.
Campaigning in Wisconsin the other day, Vice President Biden summarized this pretty well. For those who can't watch clips online, Biden said, "My mother, god love her, who lived till 93 -- we lost her a couple years ago -- she was at the last convention with me. My mom was a smart woman. But, my mom, I can't picture handing her a voucher at age 80 and saying -- you go out in the insurance market and you figure out what's best for you. Ladies and gentlemen, it's just that simple. We are for Medicare, they are for Vouchercare. It's basic."
That's not a bad line. Democrats can't call it Romneycare, because that's the informal name of the reform law in Massachusetts. They could call it Ryancare, but most folks won't know what that is, and with the election in nine weeks, there's no point in investing a lot of energy in trying to push a confusing label.
But Vouchercare resonates. I suspect we'll be hearing it quite a bit this week and in the run-up to Election Day.
Update: It looks like "Vouchercare" has been around a little longer than I'd first realized.