Older people and blue-collar workers, many of them men, have been the go-to voting blocks for Republicans in this election cycle. So how do you hold onto the core constituency by proposing to phase out Medicare, at least in its current form, and restructure the tax system to favor the very wealthy? From the National Journal's Ron Brownstein:
In March, the United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll offered respondents two options for the program. Just 19 percent of whites older than 65 endorsed Ryan's approach, which said "Medicare should be changed to a system where the government provides seniors with a fixed sum of money they could use either to purchase private health insurance or to pay the cost of remaining in the current Medicare program." Fully 74 percent of white seniors said instead that "Medicare should continue as it is today, with the government providing health insurance and paying doctors and hospitals directly for the services they provide to seniors." Among non-college whites, 63 percent said they preferred the current system, while only 26 percent backed Ryan's approach. (Ryan's plan also drew opposition not only from 66 percent of college-educated white women -- consistently the most Democratic-leaning component of the white electorate -- but even 60 percent of college-educated men, an audience usually receptive to anti-government arguments.)
Romney might be able to circumvent the Medicare problem two ways: One by arguing that the Ryan plan would not impact anyone over 55 (a dubious promise for a system that would be dismantled from the moment it's signed into law); and two by counting on Obama being so unpopular among these groups that Romney and Ryan could propose almost anything and still get receive support.