Mitt Romney making small gains in Florida and Wisconsin, despite unpopular Medicare plan

Voters in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin overwhelmingly favor traditional Medicare over the voucher program proposed by the Republican presidential ticket, but Mitt Romney has made slight overall gains in recent weeks, according to a New York Times/CBS News/Quinnipiac University poll published Thursday.

Florida, with its large retirement population, has been in the campaign spotlight since Romney picked Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate two weeks ago. Romney has said his version of Medicare reform closely mirrors that of Ryan, who has proposed introducing a premium support system for new Medicare enrollees, beginning in 2023.

The new program would not involve current seniors and would be optional for future seniors, but there is a cap on the annual increase in voucher value. If fee-for-service Medicare became more expensive than the voucher, a senior who elected to enroll in traditional Medicare would have to pay the difference.

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Future seniors also could be left with higher out-of-pocket expenses if the rise in the cost of private insurance outpaced the rise in voucher value.

In the poll, Floridians rejected the proposed voucher program, 62 percent to 28 percent.

Yet, Romney cut in half the 6-point deficit he faced in an Aug. 1 survey and now trails President Obama, 49 percent to 46 percent in the Sunshine State. The 3-point gap is barely outside the poll’s margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

Florida voters older than 65—the Medicare eligibility age—back Romney, 55 percent to 42 percent.

In Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin, Romney has turned what was a 6-point deficit on Aug. 8 into a virtual dead heat, trailing 49-47.

Ohio has not changed since Aug. 1, when Obama led Romney, 50-44.

“Solid majorities in each state agree with Romney that government—presumably the Obama administration—is doing too many things that should be left to the private sector,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Wisconsin voters say Romney is better handling the economy while Ohio and Florida voters see little difference. Obama is the clear favorite in handling health care and Medicare.”

The poll was conducted between Aug. 15 and 21 and included about 1,200 likely voters in each of the three states.