Romney uses white board in attempt to clarify Medicare stance

Mitt Romney
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney writes on a white board as he talks about Medicare during a news conference at Spartanburg International Airport, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012, in Greer, S.C.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

(CBS News) After a week of incoming fire on the issue of Medicare reform, the Romney-Ryan campaign seems to have decided that the best defense is a strong offense, taking to the stump to argue that the president's plan is a threat to seniors and the solvency of the system at large.

The thinking has been that anything that takes attention away from the economy would be a good conversation for President Obama's re-election team. But Mitt Romney's campaign has decided to take the issue of Medicare head-on, and Friday, Romney pulled out a felt tip marker to explain why.

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Between fundraisers in South Carolina, Romney decided to talk about Medicare, giving the press corps an impromptu lesson on the differences between his policies and the president's.

"Which of these two do you think is better," Romney asked his audience, "going bankrupt or being solvent? Well obviously, being solvent."

"The differences in our Medicare perspective could not be more stark and dramatic, and I think as the people, as the seniors in America understand what the president's plan is doing to Medicare, they're going to find it unacceptable," added the GOP nominee.

Both sides now claim they welcome a substantive conversation on Medicare, an issue that's long been considered a political third rail.

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"This is exactly what we want to be talking about," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. "These are the substantive issues that will be decided for this country and that will have huge impact on this country."

"This is a debate we want to have, this is a debate we need to have," agreed Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Romney's running mate, adding that it, "is a debate we're going to win."

Romney with a white board is not entirely out of left field. The former private equity firm CEO gave a PowerPoint presentation in 2011 to discuss his plan for health care.

Romney may have wanted to teach his media audience a thing or two about his Medicare plan, but like lots of students in the classroom, they wanted to talk about something else, specifically, Romney's taxes.

Facing questions about tax returns he has not yet released, Romney volunteered some new information on his tax rates.

"The fascination with taxes I've paid I find to be very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face," he told reporters, "but I did go back and look at my taxes and over the past 10 years, I never paid less than 13 percent."

The Obama campaign put out a statement saying that if that's the case, he should just prove it. But Romney maintains he will only release the last two years of returns, saying Democrats will never be satisfied.

For more on this story, watch Jan Crawford's full report in the video above.

  • Jan Crawford
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    Jan Crawford is CBS News' chief legal correspondent and based in Washington, D.C.