Republicans have made similar arguments before in taking on entitlement programs, and their efforts have often been futile. President George W. Bush tried to partially privatize Social Security during his second term and expended considerable political capital, but got nowhere.
All sides know that seniors vote in high numbers and their votes will be critical both nationally and in swing states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia.
That's why there is so much at stake in the debate over Medicare and Medicaid. It could determine not only the shape of these two basic social programs, but also the next president and who controls Congress for the foreseeable future.