A new poll from respected GOP pollster David Winston shows Republicans have fought Democrats to a draw on Medicare messaging, a key issue most analysts believe will benefit Democrats this fall because of Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) plan to partially privatize the program.
The poll, conducted for the center-right outside group American Action Network, shows the smallest of leads for Democrats on the issue, at 48 to 47 percent. The poll also showed that Republicans hold a slight lead when voters were presented with the arguments that the GOP's plan meant privatization versus the Republican argument that "ObamaCare" is a tax that will drive up healthcare premiums.
Since Mitt Romney chose Ryan as his running mate, both sides have been working furiously to define the other side as the one that wants to cut Medicare. Democrats have hounded on the message that the GOP wants to "end Medicare as we know it," while Republicans point to the "$700 billion cut" Democrats made to Medicare in order to fund their healthcare overhaul.
Partisan polls should always be taken with a grain of salt, and it is unlikely that voter opinion has fully solidified on this issue, as Ryan was chosen just 10 days ago. Also, Republican outside groups have had the edge on the airwaves, meaning they might have been able to push harder on this message. But this is a good sign on what could be a dangerous issue for the party.
The poll of 1,000 registered voters was conducted from Aug. 17-19 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.