A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Friday, March 23, 2012:
BIDEN TALKS MEDICARE — WHERE ELSE?: Vice President Joe Biden lashed out against House Republicans’ proposed changes to Medicare in —where else? — South Florida, telling a roomful of retirees that the plan would jeopardize the future health care for millions of older Americans. The Medicare plan tucked into a proposed budget from GOP House lawmakers would effectively dismantle Medicare as it is currently structured, Biden said. The proposal, written by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would give soon-to-retire folks subsidies to buy health care insurance from a private provider in an exchange. Florida is a key battleground state in the presidential race. Oh, and it has about 3.3 million Medicare recipients, most of them elderly.
PRIMARY? WHAT PRIMARY?: Wisconsin holds its presidential primary in little more than a week, but that’s not the contest grabbing voters’ attention. The effort to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker has been all-consuming. Even the head of Mitt Romney’s Wisconsin campaign says that he knows voters are too distracted to pay much attention to the April 3 vote. Volunteers working on the national campaign are few and far between. About 30 times more Republican activists are tied up helping Walker win his recall race than helping GOP front-runner Romney win the nomination. Romney’s campaign has only one office in Wisconsin, compared to the 21 opened by Walker. Even Republican voters who are usually interested in politics say they don’t care about the primary. Few candidates have campaigned in the state, and only Mitt Romney’s super PAC has run ads. Calista Gingrich, a native daughter of the state, will campaign on behalf of her husband, Newt, next week. The recall vote comes in June.
NOT MY IDEA, NOPE.: The Affordable Health Care Act, better known by its Republican name — “Obamacare” — turned two Friday, and Mitt Romney marked the occasion by calling the legislation “an unfolding disaster for the American economy, a budget-busting entitlement and a dramatic new federal intrusion into our lives.” The federal legislation is modeled on a health reform law Romney signed as governor of Massachusetts, an act that’s haunted him throughout the campaign. Skepticism about his health care record, combined with moderate positions he’s taken on other issues in the past, is part of what’s contributing to Romney’s struggle to wrap up the GOP nomination. The Supreme Court takes up the constitutional questions that have been raised about the federal health care law, and Romney’s comments Friday were a preemptive deflector in case some of the high court’s spotlight shined on him. Romney tells voters he never meant for the law to go national, but he did say that — back in 2009.
JUST KIDDING: Facing heightened pressure to revive his presidential bid, Rick Santorum was forced to explain another apparent misstep as he courted Louisiana voters Friday. Santorum said he would support the eventual GOP nominee — if it isn’t him — despite what he insists are similarities between front-runner Romney and President Barack Obama that make them indistinguishable on some issues. He caused an intraparty uproar earlier in the week after suggesting he’d prefer a second term for Obama over a Romney presidency.
Polls open from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. EDT. The state will send a total of 46 delegates to the party’s national convention in late summer but only 20 will be up for grabs in the primary. Another 23 delegates will be selected at the state Republican convention in June. The final three delegates are Republican National Committee members from Louisiana, otherwise known as superdelegates, who can back whichever candidate they choose.
— Republican John McCain won the state in 2008 with 59 percent of the vote, to 40 percent for then-Sen. Barack Obama.
— Its economy is heavily dependent on energy and forest products industries.
— State and federal authorities are trying to address a coastal erosion problem that has seen Louisiana lose about 1,880 square miles since the 1930s.
AP DELEGATE TRACKER
Romney’s big win in the Illinois primary earlier this week pushed him to a more than 2-to-1 lead in the race for the 1,144 delegates needed to become the party’s nominee for president. The count heading into Louisiana’s contest:
— Romney: 563
— Santorum: 263
— Gingrich: 135
— Paul: 50
WHERE THEY’LL BE SATURDAY:
— Gingrich: Pennsylvania
— Paul: Off the trail
— Romney: Off the trail
— Santorum: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin
— Obama: En route to South Korea
IN THEIR WORDS: ON FATAL SHOOTING OF TRAYVON MARTIN:
— “My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” — President Barack Obama.
— “The shooting of Trayvon is a terrible tragedy, unnecessary, uncalled for, and inexplicable at this point. …This shouldn’t have happened.” — Romney.
— “Stand your ground is not doing what this man did.” — Santorum, on the Florida law that gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight. Trayvon’s admitted shooter, George Zimmerman, has claimed self-defense.
— “The law involves somebody who’s coming at you and as I understand it he was trailing the young man. The young man wasn’t trailing him. So I suspect that justice will be done.” — Gingrich.
— “I don’t know all the details about that case, but obviously I don’t think any state or any municipality endorses violence. So if somebody gets killed, I would think there has to be an investigation and a punishment.” — Ron Paul.