Today President Obama talks Medicare in Florida and argues that Mitt Romney will “end Medicare as we know it.” The claim is undeniably true, though keep in mind that “as we know it” is a fairly elastic term. President Clinton promised to “end welfare as we know it,” which didn’t mean simply zeroing out the program but transforming it into something fundamentally different. That’s what the Romney-Ryan plan to transform Medicare into a system driven by private insurance vouchers would do. Ryan has moderated his original proposal by agreeing to include a public option in return for securing the support of Democratic senator Ron Wyden, but it’s still a fairly dramatic reform.
The Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record and personal finances will probably continue for a long time. But I think that, when the campaign is remembered in history, they will not be seen as the central element but rather as a prelude. The main event is going to be a fight over the priorities of the Paul Ryan budget.