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Can Obama sell health law to Florida seniors?

11:21 AM, Jul 19, 2012   |    comments
(Credit: CBS NEWS)
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(USA TODAY) -- Ahead of his trip to Florida today, President Obama's team is portraying their boss as a champion of the state's 3.4 million elderly voters, while casting Mitt Romney as a politician hostile to Medicare and other programs important to seniors.

In 2008, Obama won the state with the overwhelming backing of young voters, African Americans and Hispanics, while Florida's seniors went for Sen. John McCain 53%-45%, according to exit polls.

This time around, however, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz says Obama has the edge with Florida's 65 and over crowd.

But there may be an obstacle for Obama to overcome in his search for the senior vote. Only 39% of seniors polled support the law, according to a Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 poll published last week. Seniors make up about 30% of Florida's electorate.

Overall, 52% of Floridians oppose his health care overhaul and 50% of Florida voters want to see it repealed, according to the poll.

Still, Wasserman Schultz stressed in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that Obama's health care law is a positive for Floridians - particularly seniors. She argued that as a result of it, 238,000 Floridians on Medicare saved about $600 each on prescription drug costs in 2011 and 2.6 million of the state's seniors became eligible for free preventative care.

As Floridians - and Americans writ large -- learn about the details of the Affordable Care Act, the formal name of Obama's signature health care law, they are warming to it, Wasserman Schultz argues.

"The Republicans want to try to continue to disparage the Affordable Care Act generally, but the more people know about the Affordable Care Act, the more they support it," she said.

Obama's two-day trip to Florida starts with a grassroots event in Jacksonville. The president will also visit West Palm Beach later this afternoon, where he will deliver remarks at the Century Village retirement community.

Wasserman Schultz noted Romney's embrace of Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan's budget plan, which she said would strip Florida seniors of the preventative care they now receive under Obama's law.

"In particular, the Romney-Ryan budget would be a disaster for Florida's seniors and Florida's economy," said Wasserman Schultz, who represents Florida's 20th Congressional District. "It would end Medicare as we know it, turning it into a voucher program and risking the guaranteed coverage that seniors have earned and paid for."

Obama, however, appears to still need to do some selling of his health care law if he wants to win over Florida's seniors.

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