President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney battled over Medicare and energy policy Tuesday as the November election campaign reached out to battleground states crucial to both sides' chances for victory.
In an escalating struggle to seize the advantage on the contentious Medicare issue, the Romney campaign counterpunched with a new ad accusing Obama of cutting more than $700 billion from the government-run health care plan for senior citizens.
Romney made the same claim at two Ohio campaign appearances, three days after his selection of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan brought the issue to the forefront of the campaign spotlight.
Ryan is best-known for a conservative budget plan passed by the U.S. House that includes reforms to partially privatize Medicare, which Democrats say will kill the popular entitlement program.
To counter consistent Democratic attacks in recent days against Ryan's Medicare proposals, the new Romney ad sought to turn the tables by contending the money senior citizens have paid into Medicare for years will instead fund Obama's 2010 health care reform bill.
At a campaign event Tuesday in Ohio, Romney beat the same drum.
"When he ran for office he said he'd protect Medicare, but did you know that he has taken $716 billion out of the Medicare trust fund -- he's raided that trust fund -- and you know what he did with it?" Romney said of Obama. "He's used it to pay for Obamacare -- a risky, unproven, federal government takeover of health care -- and if I'm president of the United States we're putting the $716 billion back."
A July 24 Congressional Budget Office report said that repealing the health care law, as called for by Romney and Ryan, would increase spending on Medicare by $716 billion through 2022. At the same time, the CBO letter said keeping Obamacare in place would not mean a $716 billion decrease in Medicare spending as claimed by Romney and his ad.
The Obama campaign called Romney's claim "dishonest and "hypocritical."
"The savings his ad attacks do not cut a single guaranteed Medicare benefit, and Mitt Romney embraced the very same savings when he promised he'd sign Paul Ryan's budget," said Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith.
David Axelrod, Obama's senior campaign adviser, told CNN earlier Tuesday that Medicare reforms in the president's health care law "took away subsidies, unwarranted subsidies, to insurance companies, and he used that money to help lengthen the life of Medicare by nearly a decade."