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A balancing act

Medicare presents a potential problem for Mr. Romney, especially in Florida. The Republican’s advisers think they have blunted Mr. Obama’s attacks over Medicare by responding with criticism that the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” would drain more than $700 billion from the entitlement program.

But every day spent defending his Medicare plan against Mr. Obama’s attacks is a day that the Romney campaign would rather devote to the economy and to the challenger’s message that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago.

That economic message clearly has an appeal, including with some seniors in Florida. When Mr. Obama stopped at a bakery Sunday in Cocoa, Fla., he ran into retiree Bill Terrell of Jay, Fla., who unabashedly told the president that he is a Romney supporter.

“That’s OK,” Mr. Obama replied.

Mr. Terrell told reporters traveling with the president that he thinks Mr. Obama “is personable, nice man.”

But he added, “I don’t think he’s going to be able to get the economy going, and Romney will.”

The president also had breakfast with two retired couples who rely on Medicare and favor his plan.

Same old song?

So far, there is little in public polls to suggest that the Medicare issue has hurt Mr. Romney in Florida, but Mr. Obama still has nearly two months remaining to drive home his message. One Republican political consultant said Florida’s retirees have heard it all before.

“Florida’s seniors are used to Democrat scare tactics about Social Security and Medicare going back to 1994 and Lawton Chiles,” said Republican strategist Jamie Miller of Sarasota, referring to the Democrat’s victory in the governor’s race that year over Republican Jeb Bush. “Florida’s seniors know that for Social Security and Medicare to survive, we can no longer follow the failed policies of the Obama administration.”

But in ads and in the president’s two-day campaign swing through central Florida, Mr. Obama’s team was telling voters that his Affordable Care Act is needed to preserve Medicare. Campaign officials said 1.8 million Medicare beneficiaries in the state received free preventive-care services last year as a result of the program. In Brevard County, where Mr. Obama spoke Sunday morning at the Florida Institute of Technology, more than 9,000 residents got a discount on their prescription drugs, saving them an average of $575 each last year, the campaign said.

“These guys are out there running these ads about how somehow we’re weakening Medicare,” Mr. Obama said. “We strengthened Medicare, extended its life for eight years.”