"Their plan makes seniors pay more so they can give another tax cut to millionaires and billionaires," Obama said, campaigning in New Hampshire last Saturday.
Yet, after focusing on the issue for a few days with an ad and speeches, Obama has virtually dropped the issue from his campaign repertoire. Addressing students Tuesday, he only mentioned Medicare once. By Wednesday, it had disappeared from his speech altogether.
For one thing, the campaign doesn't want to overexpose the issue now, in the heat of summer and with many voters still not focused on the presidential contest. Romney's camp is glad to have the issue debated now rather than later, and it launched a preemptive critique of the changes to Medicare that are in Obama's broad health care plan. But Obama's camp has indicated it will push the issue to the front once again as the election nears.
Obama leads Romney among women. But suburban women comprise a significant segment of the sliver of voters who are still on the fence. To that end, Obama has been airing ads in a number of competitive states making his case for women by citing Ryan's voting record on funding for Planned Parenthood and abortion. The ads are airing in Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, Ohio, Florida and Iowa.
Obama aides note that Obama gets his biggest applause lines when he declares: "We're not going back to the day when women didn't have control of their own health care choices. We're going forward, we're not going back."
Then Missouri's Todd Akin weighed in. The Republican congressman who is challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill told an interviewer that women's bodies could prevent pregnancies in cases of "legitimate rape." Akin's remarks caused a furor and denunciations from across the political spectrum. But Akin defied calls from Romney and other Republican leaders to step down from the race.
Obama seized the moment to draw attention to his differences with Romney and Ryan over women's health. And it dovetailed with the ads Obama was already running. The Obama camp has been happy to let the controversy play out.
"Having this debate and having the conversation about it is one we certainly welcome," Obama campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said.
About a week earlier, a dozen or so female volunteers in the Romney campaign's Colorado headquarters were calling women in the state. As the phone bankers fished for votes, Colorado state Rep. Libby Szabo, a Republican, dismissed the Obama campaign's arguments that women should fear the Romney-Ryan ticket's stance on reproductive issues.
"I don't think that's the biggest challenge we face today as women," she said. "The biggest challenge is, is my job safe so I can feed my children? That's the winning issue."
AP Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and Associated Press writer Nicholas Riccardi in Colorado contributed to this report.
Follow Jim Kuhnhenn at http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.