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Medicare: Republicans say they're ready to rumble. Is that wise?

The coming election may be about jobs, jobs, jobs, but Republicans at the National Convention are vowing to take the battle to the Democrats on Medicare, too. They may have had little choice.

By Staff writer / August 27, 2012

Delegates watch a video presentation during an abbreviated session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, Aug. 27.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Tampa, Fla.

House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio was just as adamant Monday at the Republican National Convention as he has been for months prior: the coming election will be about jobs and jobs alone.

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But there’s another issue on which congressional Republicans say they’re spoiling for a fight – Medicare.

In fact, while conventions are always chock full of optimistic bluster, one top Republican masterminding the party’s attempt to win House seats made a boast Monday that foretells a head-on collision over the decidedly non-jobs issue.

“I predict, in two weeks, the Democrats stop talking about Medicare because they will have officially lost this issue,” said Guy Harrison, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee at a briefing with reporters Monday. “You just watch – they’re going to start going to another issue. Because for all their talk, they know how bad Obamacare is for them.”

For Republicans, the calculus appears to be that Democrats, who traditionally outpoll them on Medicare policy, were going to jam the issue down their throats whether they liked it or not. So they better get ahead of the curve – and fast.

“The [Medicare] debate, if we didn’t want to have it, was going to be conducted by late-night phone calls from Democratic phone banks to seniors and ugly mail pieces scaring the crap out of them,” Karl Rove, an influential GOP strategist and powerbroker who helps direct the largest Republican super PAC, said at a breakfast sponsored by POLITICO. “And I’d rather have the discussion now – we know as a country that these things are going broke.”

Speaker Boehner was a bit less strident – although no less aggressive-minded – in his own remarks at a lunch sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. Boehner noted his heavy travel schedule stumping in August for House candidates, with a special focus on so-called “orphan” races in New York, California, and Illinois. More than a dozen races in those states are seen as key opportunities for Democrats hoping to retake the House, because the states lean Democratic and will see no investment from the Republican presidential campaign of Mitt Romney.

“Republicans are on offense on all the big issues, whether it’s jobs, spending, even Medicare,” Boehner said. “That means we’re on offense in all the big races as well.”

Two weeks, in theory, to send the Democrats packing on Medicare would put the cease-fire just a week after the conclusion of the Democrats’ own convention, being held next week in Charlotte, N.C.

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