- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rep. Paul Ryan, making his first campaign appearance in Florida since becoming Mitt Romney’s running mate a week ago, told a supportive crowd of senior citizens Saturday that President Obama is raiding Medicare to fund his health care reforms.

“One out of six of our hospitals and our nursing homes will go out of business,” as a result of the changes to Medicare under the president’s signature legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Ryan said in an event at The Villages, the sprawling retirement community near Orlando.

Appearing on stage with his mother, 78-year-old Betty Ryan Douglas, the Republican vice-presidential candidate said he and Mr. Romney would protect Medicare benefits for the current generation of retirees and save the entitlement program for the future.

“She is why I am here. She and her grandchildren — that’s why I’m here,” he said. “It’s what my mom relies on.

“Medicare will not be used as a piggy bank for Obamacare,” Mr. Ryan said.

The 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman talked about his mom starting her own business after her husband died when Mr. Ryan was a teen.

“And mom — you did build that,” he said, taking a dig at the president’s earlier remarks on small businesses and drawing cheers from the crowd and a fist pump from his mother, a part-time resident of Florida.

The vice-presidential candidate was introduced by country singer Lee Greenwood, who led the crowd in a singalong of “God Bless the U.S.A.” before Mr. Ryan, dressed casually in khakis and a golf shirt, walked out hand-in-hand with his smiling mother.

Mr. Ryan said both his mother and his grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, depended on Medicare, and the program would be protected if Mitt Romney wins the presidency.

“When I think of Medicare, it’s not just a program, it’s not just a bunch of numbers, it’s what my mom relies on. We want this debate. We need this debate, and we’re going to win this debate,” he said, brushing aside a week of blistering criticism and attack ads from Mr. Obama and his supporters.

Democrats have tried to focus on the federal spending blueprint that first brought the Wisconsin lawmaker into the national spotlight, Mr. Ryan’s detailed 2008 “Path to Prosperity” budget that called for significant reforms to entitlement programs and immediate cuts to federal spending.

But on the campaign trail, Republicans have emphasized that under Mr. Romney’s Medicare plan, there will be no changes to Medicare for Americans over the age of 55.

“Medicare was there for our family, for my grandma when we needed it then. And Medicare is there for my mom, when she needs it now. And we have to keep that guarantee,” Mr. Ryan said.

“But in order to make sure that we can guarantee that promise for my mom’s generation, for those baby boomers who are retiring every day, we must reform it for my generation,” he said.

The Villages, world’s largest seniors community, has been a Republican stronghold in the past, with thousands turning out for recent stops by Mr. Romney and previous appearances by 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

• David Eldridge can be reached at deldridge@washingtontimes.com.

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