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A 'draw' on Medicare?

Candidates lie because they know many won't know the difference.
Candidates lie because they know many won't know the difference.Associated Press

On the surface, the very idea seemed ridiculous. Mitt Romney had just chosen his running mate -- Paul Ryan, best known for trying to eliminate the Medicare program and replace it with a voucher scheme -- when the Republican ticket launched an offensive over Medicare. We've all seen campaigns try to use a weakness as a strength, but this stunt would require profound ignorance on the part of voters.

And yet, it may have worked. BuzzFeed reports this morning that Republicans believe "they've fought Medicare to a draw."

Top Republicans kicked off the push for the hearts and minds of reporters covering the Republican National Convention by making the case that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have survived the attacks on Ryan's plan to shift Medicare toward a voucher system.

"This talk about how the Ryan Medicare plan is going to be a huge problem for the Romney-Ryan ticket is just not the case," Republican pollster Whit Ayers, who heads the strategy group Resurgent Republic, told a gathering of the press at a Tampa hotel Monday morning.

This isn't just tough talk at a convention; there's ample evidence that Republicans are right to feel pretty confident about this.

Last week, a New York Times poll showed overwhelming opposition to the Romney/Ryan plan, which would effectively privatize Medicare out of existence. Great news for Democrats, right? Wrong -- most Americans have no idea what Romney/Ryan has in mind for Medicare, and as a result, a plurality of seniors in Florida and Ohio believe the Republican ticket would do a better job protecting Medicare than Obama/Biden.

That doesn't make any sense, of course, but remember, reality no longer matters in post-truth politics.

What about the other polls? The latest survey from CNN shows Obama with a one point on Medicare nationwide, and among seniors, Romney leads on Medicare by five points, 50% to 45%. The new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows overwhelming opposition to the description of the Romney/Ryan plan, but overall, voters still prefer Romney/Ryan on Medicare by three points.

When Romney launched his Medicare offensive, it struck me as absurd -- people are easily fooled, but there's no way the American mainstream could be this confused. The notion that voters would want to protect Medicare and then trust the ticket that wants to eliminate Medicare was simply too ridiculous to believe.

And yet, here we are. Candidates lie in ads because people will believe them.