- Associated Press - Sunday, August 19, 2012

WOLFEBORO, N.H. (AP) — President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney spent a quiet Sunday attending church with their families as the two politicians rested up for the campaign’s final 11 weeks and the approaching party nominating conventions.

While the Romneys enjoyed beautiful sunshine in New Hampshire and the Obamas endured rain in Washington, both men sent top advisers to the Sunday talk shows. These surrogates sparred mainly over Medicare and taxes, just as the candidates themselves have done for days.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney plunge back into heavy campaigning and fundraising this week. Targeted states include Ohio, Nevada and New Hampshire.

The debate’s dominant topic remains how to tame Medicare’s explosive growth without hurting the millions of elderly Americans, and future retirees, who count on it to pay for health care.

TV interviewers pressed Romney aides to explain how the GOP ticket can restore a proposed $716 billion cut in Medicare spending’s growth over 10 years without worsening the program’s projected shortfall in funding.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (left) walks toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with two unidentified people on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in Wolfeboro, N.H. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (left) walks toward the Church of Jesus ... more >

Moderators also noted that Mr. Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, who is the House Budget Committee chairman, originally joined Mr. Obama in backing the proposed $716 billion, 10-year reduction.

Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney are now in accord. The $716 billion can safely remain in the program, he said, because Mr. Romney will “introduce choice and competition through more private plans.”

Mr. Romney also would trim benefits for wealthier people and gradually raise the eligibility age. None of his proposed changes would affect Americans now 55 or older.

Obama aide Stephanie Cutter, also on CNN, said Mr. Romney’s plan to keep the $716 billion in Medicare over 10 years would do nothing to shore up the program.

“They’re going to use taxpayer dollars to give subsidies to insurance companies,” she said.

Mr. Obama’s proposed reductions would not hurt Medicare recipients, Ms. Cutter said, because he would create incentives for health providers to be more efficient.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Republican adviser Ed Gillespie was asked about a nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office finding that, under Mr. Romney’s “premium support” proposals, “Medicare beneficiaries will bear a much larger share of their health care cost.”

“We reject that in our analysis,” Mr. Gillespie said. He said Mr. Romney’s overall plans, including a higher eligibility age, eventually would slow the program’s growth.

On another front, Mr. Gillespie disputed Mr. Obama’s claim that Mr. Romney’s call for deeper tax cuts will unfairly benefit the wealthy and worsen the deficit.

Mr. Romney’s plan, Mr. Gillespie said, “would allow for households with incomes less than $200,000 to not pay on capital gains and dividends because we believe that would help foster job creation.”

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