NEW ORLEANS – Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan got boos — and some applause — from the crowd at AARP’s annual convention here Friday morning as he touted his plan to overhaul Medicare and harshly criticized President Obama, who had addressed the group via satellite ahead of Ryan.
The reception for Ryan, which reflected the charged emotions surrounding the Medicare debate, was more mixed than at any of his campaign events since the Wisconsin congressman took the stage at the Iowa State Fair for his first solo event as Mitt Romney’s running mate. In Iowa, Ryan was aggressively heckled by protesters.
In New Orleans, there were a few shouts from the audience.
“You know President Obama’s slogan, right?” Ryan told the crowd of seniors gathered Friday in a ballroom of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. “ ‘Forward’ — forward into a future where seniors are denied the care they earned because a bureaucrat decided it wasn’t worth the money.”
“Lie!” one woman in the crowd yelled as others booed. “Liar!” yelled another.
The crowd was silent for most of Ryan’s speech and applauded him as he took the stage and left it. But some attendees responded with loud disapproval of Ryan’s attack on Obama and when Ryan described his own Medicare plan.
At one point, when Ryan told the crowd that “all that we need now is leaders who have the political will to save and strengthen Social Security,” one man quipped: “Got one!”
At other points in the speech, scattered attendees yelled out, “No vouchers!” and “Tax the 1 percent!”
Ryan’s address, much like Obama’s remarks via video earlier in the day, was both a sharp critique of the other side as well as a defense of the candidate’s plans for the future of the popular health-care program for the elderly and the disabled.
It comes as multiple swing state polls show the GOP ticket losing ground to Obama and as Romney seeks to regain his footing after a series of self-inflicted errors in recent weeks. Central to victory in several of those battleground states will be seniors, among whom Medicare reform is a top election-year issue.
As he did at an event at a Florida retirement community last month, Ryan on Friday went into greater detail when attacking the president than when outlining his own plan for Medicare, which he pitched to attendees in personal terms.
He was loudly booed several times for pledging to repeal Obama’s signature health-care law. But he drew applause when he spoke about his family and noted that his 78-year-old mother, Betty Douglas, was in the audience, just as she has been at other events where Ryan has focused on entitlement reform.
“When I think about Medicare, I don’t just think about charts and graphs and numbers,” he told the crowd. “My thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville. My wonderful grandma, Janet, had Alzheimer’s and moved in with mom and me. Though she felt lost at times, we did all the little things that made her feel loved.”
He added, “We had help from Medicare, and it was there, just like it’s there for my mom today.”