President Obama opened a two-day campaign swing through Florida on Thursday as he tried to build support in the deadlocked battleground state by presenting his opponent, Mitt Romney, as a bad choice for seniors.
After weeks of focusing on Romney’s private-sector business deals, Obama turned to another front by assailing Republican plans to repeal his health care law and transform Medicare into a voucher program. Democrats have long used Medicare as a wedge issue to galvanize older voters in Florida against Republicans.
‘‘Shredding the social safety net, shredding the health care safety net for seniors is outrageous,’’ said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman who was traveling with Obama. ‘‘President Obama opposes Romney’s plan to voucherize Medicare. He knows that Medicare is a sacred compact with Florida’s 3.4 million seniors who earned it after a lifetime of hard work.’’
Romney, campaigning in Boston, scheduled three interviews with Florida radio stations to counter Obama’s visit.
‘‘The president is extraordinarily out of touch with how America’s economy works and how individuals pursuing their dreams in this country have built America,’’ he told a Tampa station. ‘‘The president thinks that it’s government that should take responsibility for all the successful businesses in this country. And the truth is, it is not government.’’
Obama has found it hard to gain traction in Florida, according to recent polls, and Republicans greeted him with TV advertisements accusing him of trying to distract attention from high unemployment and mediocre economic growth.
‘‘Barack Obama can’t run on his failed economic record, so his whole strategy is trying to put his opponent through the shredder — and even that’s failing because his attacks are misleading,’’ said Jonathan Collegio, communications director for American Crossroads, a group broadcasting one of the ads in Florida and other battleground states.
After Jacksonville, a city that just elected its first black mayor and that sits in a county that Obama lost by just 8,000 votes four years ago, the president headed to West Palm Beach to address an audience of seniors. On Friday, he travels to Fort Myers and Orlando.
The president is using his trip to argue that his policies have made significant if insufficient progress in rebuilding an economy racked by financial crisis and that the health care law benefits older Floridians.
Florida seniors saved an average of $600 last year on prescription drug costs because the health care law helped close the doughnut hole in coverage, the Obama campaign said.
As for Medicare, Obama took aim at Romney’s support for a fiscal plan advanced by Representative Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who leads the House Budget Committee. The Ryan plan would overhaul Medicare by providing recipients vouchers to obtain insurance on the private market. Obama said vouchers would not cover the full cost.
With attacks like that, the Obama campaign remains hopeful it can keep Florida in his column in the fall but acknowledged that it would at best remain a tight contest .
NEW YORK TIMES
Boehner says Bachmann’s claims are ‘dangerous’
House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that it is dangerous for a fellow Republican to allege that an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has family ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann wrote a letter to the State Department last month with other Republicans about Huma Abedin, who is Muslim. The letter said Abedin’s late father, mother, and brother were connected to Muslim Brotherhood operations. Bachmann asked in a separate letter how Abedin received security clearance.
Boehner said that while he doesn’t know Abedin personally, ‘‘from everything I do know of her, she has a sterling character, and I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.’’
On Wednesday another prominent Republican, Senator John McCain of Arizona, also came to the defense of Abedin.