Republican Mitt Romney said he would keep parts of President Barack Obama’s health care law, shifting his focus to independent voters as polls showed the president gained support after the Democratic convention.
Both candidates focused on health care yesterday as Obama wrapped up a two-day bus tour across the swing state of Florida by attacking Romney’s proposal to change Medicare.
Romney, speaking in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said he would replace Obama’s health care law with his own plan while keeping some popular provisions including coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. The Obama administration contends that requiring insurers to cover those people, without also mandating that almost everyone have insurance, would cause prices to soar.
“I’m not getting rid of all health care reform,” said Romney. “Of course there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place.”
Obama’s post-convention Florida bus tour showed signs of a gain in intensity at the rallies. His audience in heavily Puerto Rican Kissimmee was so fired up that he said he was tempted to just “say ‘thank you’ and leave the stage.”
An audience of 6,000 at his final stop in West Palm Beach broke into a sing-along before he took the stage, as the speakers played Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” He told the crowd that while he knew he was preaching to the choir, now he needed them to go out and “preach to the unconverted.”
Romney, 65, has made opposition to the health care law a central theme of his campaign, saying one of his first actions in office would be to seek to repeal it.
On coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, Nobel-prize winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote yesterday that such a requirement, without an insurance mandate, would lead healthy people to opt out of insurance, leaving behind “a high risk, high cost pool.”
“It’s not as easy as keeping some of the pieces” without a requirement that individuals obtain insurance, Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. Romney needs to explain his proposal with details and math, she said.
Making his first appearance on “Meet the Press” in more than three years, Romney said it was a “mistake” for Republicans to back a budget deal with the White House that would enact $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts in defense and other areas. His running mate, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, voted for the cuts and later tried to undo them.
Romney’s less partisan tone marked a contrast from the previous day, when he stood beside television evangelist Pat Robertson at a campaign rally in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and suggested that Democrats wanted to take the word “God” off the American currency. Psaki called the idea absurd, saying it was as likely as the possibility that “aliens are going to attack Florida.”
The narrow lead Obama gained over Romney during last week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, widened in the latest Gallup Poll conducted Sept. 2-8, in which 49 percent of voters said they supported Obama compared with 44 percent for Romney.
The candidates had been tied or within 1 percentage point of each other in the daily poll since mid-August until Obama registered a 3 percentage-point lead over Romney in the poll conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 6. The poll, updated daily, is based on telephone interviews with 3,050 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
The Republican candidate received no bounce from his party’s convention, which concluded Aug. 30, according to Gallup.
Romney took the day off from campaigning yesterday, went to church with his family and prepared with staff for the presidential debates. Today he plans to rally voters at a manufacturing company in Ohio before heading to Reno, Nevada, to address a National Guard convention on Sept. 11.
Obama, in his two-day bus tour, sought to move the focus from a weak jobs report that showed the share of the working-age population in the labor force had slumped to 63.5 percent, the lowest since 1981.
Campaigning in eastern Florida yesterday, the 51-year-old president defended his commitment to space research and told future retirees they will see Medicare costs rise and benefits suffer if Republican Mitt Romney is elected.
“I will never turn Medicare into a voucher,” Obama told a crowd of 3,050 at a technology institute in Melbourne, along the space coast.
Obama cited an analysis by Harvard professor David Cutler that said changes in Medicare favored by Romney and Ryan would translate to $16 billion to $26 billion in new profits for insurers by the end of the next decade.
“Your costs would rise by thousands so that their profits could rise by millions,” Obama said.
Romney’s campaign disputed the study. Campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said Obama was relying on “discredited” analyses and “outright falsehoods.”
Obama targeted voting blocs in eastern Florida tied to the economy around the Kennedy Space Center.
He told the audience in Melbourne, a region that suffered job losses from the last year’s end of the manned space shuttle program, that his administration has “begun an ambitious new direction” for NASA that will create new jobs in the area. The decision to end the shuttle program was made under President George W. Bush, a Republican, and completed under Democrat Obama.
The president championed the NASA rover Curiosity’s landing on Mars last month. He said Republicans want to cut federal spending on research.
Outside the speech site, protesters carried signs that read “Outsourced Manned Spaceflight” and “Obama Lied Space Coast Died.”
Later in the afternoon, Obama stopped in a pizza store in Ft. Pierce, Florida, to meet the owner. Obama said Scott Van Duzer, owner of Big Apple Pizza & Pasta, was recognized by the White House and the U.S. surgeon general for his work in organizing community blood drives.
The 6-foot-three, 260-pound owner Van Duzer bear-hugged the president and lifted him off the ground.
Obama said Van Duzer has done “unbelievable work” in his community. “The guy’s just got a big heart along with big pecs,” the president said.