Romney in danger of losing senior support

Paul Ryan booed at AARP conference
US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney talks to journalists about his phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyah on board his campaign plane on September 28, 2012. With 39 days to go for the election and polls showing an narrowing path to victory for the Republican nominee, Romney warned a second Obama term would be subsumed by economic malaise as he tried to draw the battle away from his own perceived missteps and back to the president's economic record. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages)

(CBS News) Mitt Romney has 39 days to turn his presidential campaign into a winner, but the support of a key voting group is in jeopardy.

Seniors, aged 65 and older, tend to vote Republican, but many are concerned about what a "President" Romney might do with Medicare.

A poll of key swing state by the Washington Post shows Governor Romney trailing in Ohio, Virginia, and Florida.

In Florida, where nearly 1 in 3 voters is over 65, Romney trails President Obama by 4 points, 51 percent to 47 percent.

In both Virginia and Ohio, Mitt Romney is trailing by 8 points, 52 percent to 44 percent.

In those 3 states, voters who said Medicare is extremely important to how they will vote: 59 percent are going with President Obama; 36 percent are with Mitt Romney.

A week ago at an AARP convention in New Orleans, Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan spoke to a group of seniors about Medicare.

"The first step to a stronger Medicare is to repeal Obamacare because it represents the worst of both worlds," Ryan told the audience.

What he wasn't prepared for were the audible 'boos' that were heard as he made his remarks.

The frosty reaction is borne out in new polling data by both CBS News and others which found more people believed the president would do a better job handling Medicare than Governor Romney.

In a Washington Post survey with the Kaiser Foundation of the three battleground states of Ohio, Virginia, and Florida, broad majorities opposed far reaching changes to the president's healthcare plan.

Walt Mazie of Flagler Beach, Fla., has serious questions for the candidates.

"I think Romney will turn the economy around but it's the other issues that we don't know about. Like the Medicare, Healthcare issues," Mazie said.

In Haymarket, Va., lifelong Republican Dan Stapleton echoes fears about the Romney-Ryan ticket.

"I think they want to change it so dramatically we won't recognize it quite as Medicare once they're done," Stapleton said.

By putting Paul Ryan, an advocate to major changes in entitlement program, on the ticket, Mitt Romney has prompted questions on what he would do about Medicare. He's also opened the door to an avalanche of Democratic attack ads.

Analysts say Romney's plans could raise seniors' costs up to $6,400 per year.

On Friday, a spokesman for Governor Romney said the latest polling on Medicare is "irrelevant," because his plan was not accurately explained in the questions. But, the responses are relevant to Romney's hopes.

  • Dean Reynolds
    Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.