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Paul Ryan: why taking Medicare message to Florida wasn’t a risk

In his visit to a retirement community in Florida, Paul Ryan pledged to 'preserve and protect' federal health benefits for those at or near retirement. And he brought along his mom to prove it.

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Republican vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. introduces his mother, Betty Ryan Douglas, to supporters at a campaign rally in The Villages, Fla., Saturday.

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

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Rep. Paul Ryan – with his mother at his side – dove into the Medicare issue Saturday before an audience that was made to order: Florida’s Republican-heavy retirement community known as The Villages.

The Republican vice presidential candidate pledged to “preserve and protect” federal health benefits for those at or near retirement, and reform the system for the next generation. But Congressman Ryan was light on the details of a Romney-Ryan reform, choosing instead to attack President Obama.

“Medicare should not be used as a piggy bank for Obamacare,” the youthful Wisconsin Republican told the outdoor crowd, mostly aged 55 and above. “Medicare should be the promise that it made to our current seniors, period end of story.”

Ryan’s focus on seniors reflects their crucial role in the nation’s biggest battleground state, where polls show the presidential race deadlocked. In Florida, 26 percent of the electorate is 65 or older.

IN PICTURES: On the campaign trail with the Romney/Ryan ticket

Mitt Romney’s selection of Ryan to the ticket a week ago reignited debate over entitlements, particularly Medicare, because of Ryan’s controversial proposal as chairman of the House Budget Committee to turn it into a voucher-like system. Team Romney has clearly decided that the best defense is a good offense, as it pounds hard on the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

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