Romney Says His Stumbles Don’t Mean Campaign Needs a Turnaround

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said his campaign doesn’t need an overhaul even though he’s trailing President Barack Obama in critical swing states and has come under fire from members of his own party over recent stumbles.

“It doesn’t need a turnaround,” Romney said in an interview for CBS’s “60 Minutes” program. “We’ve got a campaign which is tied with an incumbent president.”

An excerpt from the interview, scheduled for broadcast tomorrow, was released by the network yesterday. Obama also has been interviewed for the program.

“There are some days we’re up. There are some days we’re down,” Romney said of poll results.

Romney has been criticized by some Republicans as well as Democrats for his initial response to the fatal attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya and his remarks to donors, secretly recorded in a video, in which he said 47 percent of Americans are government-dependent “victims” who don’t pay federal income taxes.

Obama has used the Romney comments in campaign speeches since the video was leaked on the Internet.

“That’s not the campaign. That was me, right?” Romney said in the “60 Minutes” interview. The campaign organization is doing a “very good job. But not everything I say is elegant. And, and I want to make it very clear, I want to help 100 percent of the American people.”

Deriding Romney

At a rally in Virginia yesterday, Obama derided Romney’s statement that he would change things from the inside.

“What kind of inside job is he talking about?” Obama asked to laughter from his audience. “Is it the job of rubberstamping the top-down, you’re-on-your-own agenda of this Republican Congress? Because if it is, we don’t want it.”

At an appearance in Las Vegas, Romney again said Obama has raised “the white flag of surrender” on the economy and making progress on legislation, keying off a statement the president made the day before about changing Washington from the outside.

“Over history there have been people that have changed Washington from the outside,” Romney told donors at the Red Rock casino. “This president has not done that.”

Social Security

Earlier, Obama accused Republicans of threatening the future of Social Security and Medicare while Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said only he and Romney are offering “honest answers” about how to preserve the programs.

Obama and Ryan addressed the biggest U.S. advocacy group for senior citizens as they made appeals for the votes of a constituency that traditionally goes to the polls on Election Day at a higher proportion than other groups.

The president, speaking via satellite to a gathering of AARP in New Orleans, pledged to keep both programs solvent for current and future recipients and promised that over the next decade the average Medicare beneficiary will save $5,000 as a result of his health-care law.

He said Republican criticism of the measure passed by Congress “hasn’t been completely on the level” and that a plan Ryan has pushed as House Budget Committee chairman would replace Medicare with a “voucher that wouldn’t keep up with costs.”

Ryan, speaking in person to the group in New Orleans following Obama’s appearance, drew boos from the audience when he said he and Romney would work to repeal the health-care law.

Law Repeal

“The first step to a stronger Medicare is to repeal Obamacare because it represents the worst of both worlds,” Ryan said. Responding to the boos, he said, “I had a feeling there would be mixed reaction, so let me get into it.”

He said the law “weakens Medicare for today’s seniors and puts it at risk for the next generation.”

AARP claims more than 37 million members. In an election that both campaigns forecast will be close, Obama and Romney are seeking an edge with every constituency. Medicare and Social Security, which primarily benefit those 65 years of age and older, are key issues with older voters.

In a dozen battleground states, including Florida and Virginia, voters said they have more faith that Obama will preserve Medicare than Romney by 50 percent to 44 percent, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. The Sept. 11-17 poll of 1,096 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Medicare Impact

The health-care law championed by Obama is one of the central points of debate in the campaign. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act scales back payments to Medicare Advantage plans, an alternative to traditional Medicare. It also slows the growth of Medicare payments to hospitals and other health-care providers. Seniors’ benefits weren’t reduced in the legislation.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that Medicare spending will reach $887 billion in 2020, up from $499 billion in actual spending in 2009.

Ryan, a U.S. representative from Wisconsin, has produced a budget blueprint that would convert Medicare to a voucher plan, a proposal that has drawn scorn from seniors’ groups, including the AARP, because it would end Medicare as a defined-benefit program.

While the current law plows its projected savings back into subsidies to help low-income individuals buy insurance, the Ryan plan counts the money toward debt reduction.

“We respect all the people in this country enough to talk about the clear choices we face on Medicare, Social Security, the economy and the kind of country our children will inherit,” Ryan said. “Our plan keeps the protections that have made Medicare a guaranteed promise for seniors throughout the years.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Julianna Goldman in Washington at jgoldman6@bloomberg.net; Lisa Lerer in Washington at llerer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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