This morning, Soledad and the "Starting Point" team looked at the Rep. Paul Ryan factor, and what he means for the Republican ticket. A new CNN poll shows the addition of Congressman Ryan to the ticket has turned his home state of Wisconsin into a battleground state, while the overall numbers aren't changing very much, 49% of registered voters say they back President Obama, 45% say they support Mitt Romney. That's within the margin of error. It's the very positive polling of Ryan in the state, though, that's really making it up for grabs in our CNN analysis. It's a state that hasn't gone to a Republican since Ronald Reagan.
But the questions about which candidate would destroy Medicare with their plans rages on, with both sides claiming the other would cause immense harm to the program.
This morning on "Starting Point," Romney supporter Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) talks about the back and forth on Medicare, awhile also addressing the question of whether Mitt Romney will release more tax returns and what Rep. Ryan's role in the election could mean for the future of the country.
The conversation got heated when Soledad asks Chaffetz about Medicare cuts, and whether the GOP plan calls for the same cuts as the Obama administration while also advocating for a voucher program.
When asked if he voted for similar cuts as called in Rep. Ryan's budget plan as in the Obama plan, he says he did vote for the Ryan budgets but the approach is what matters.
"It's a totally different approach," Chaffetz says. "It's not - we didn't just copy what President Obama said. That's not true. That's a misrepresentation."
Chaffetz adds, "How to actually do it and execute it is very important. And there are two fundamentally different approaches on how to do this."
When pressed about whether the GOP plan calls for a voucher-like program for seniors, Chaffetz says it's 'false, misleading, derogatory and inaccurate' to call it a voucher program. "It is premium support. And that is different than a voucher program," he says.
See more from the interview in the clip below. Transcript available after the jump.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Good morning. Good morning.
O'BRIEN: Good morning. Let's talk about that polling I was just talking about. When you look at the actual numbers, as I said, it's still pretty close numbers-wise, 49 percent registered voters choice for president for President Obama, 45 percent, if you're looking at Mitt Romney.
But it's the other elements in this poll that I think is what's getting people's attention. Favorability, you have Paul Ryan is at 50 percent. When they ask about the choice of running mate, excellent or good, 54 percent. Is he qualified to serve as president, 56 percent say yes.
John King walked us through a map of how it would not just affect Wisconsin, but affect the whole entire Midwest. All of that has to be good news.
How much effort are you now putting into the Midwest states here?
CHAFFETZ: Well, this morning, and later this morning, I'm headed to Iowa myself. So, a lot of effort going into the Midwest.
Paul Ryan represents a lot of those values. He's a hunter. He's a family man. He grew up there. He is a man of integrity. He adds a youth factor that hasn't been on the ticket that I think is very appealing.
And he knows his stuff. He's a good, energetic, principled person, and I think people like to se that.
O'BRIEN: Peggy Noonan says the selection of Paul Ryan, though, is a long ball. And by that, I think she means, you know, I guess it's a bit risky. She writes this in her op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal": "Mitt Romney just threw a long ball. Fine. The GOP will have to play an audacious long ball game."
It's bold and it's risky. Why are you convinced that the risky can overcome the bold?
CHAFFETZ: I don't think it's risky. I think it's Mitt Romney signaling to the world that he's serious about tackling the problems ahead of us.
Paul Ryan is a serious player. He is the smartest guy on Capitol Hill, in my opinion. He knows the budget, the appropriations process better than anybody else on either side of the aisle. He's earned a name and a reputation for working across the aisle in a bipartisan way. And I think that's what the strength of the ticket adds.
And so, look, there are probably other paths of least resistance, but to select Paul Ryan, I couldn't be more proud of Mitt Romney making that selection and taking the fight on the issues. That's what it's all about.
O'BRIEN: Mitt Romney says he has never paid less than 13 percent in taxes. We know as well that Ann Romney weighed in when she was being interviewed on "Rock Center."
Let's listen first to what the former governor had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did go back and look at my taxes, and over the past 10 years, I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 percent or something like that. So I have paid taxes every single year. Harry Reid's charge is totally false.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: OK. And here is what Ann Romney said last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: We have been very transparent to what's legally required of us. But the more we release, the more we get attacked. The more we get questioned. The more we get pushed. And so we have done what's legally required, and there's going to be no more - there's going to be no more tax releases given.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Do you think Americans are going to be satisfied with that? If you look at your median American household dual income families, it's something like $67,000, right? And they are paying - you know, their bracket is 15 percent, but they are paying an effective tax of 7 percent. And you look at someone who on his taxes that what we know so far $45 million - $42 million from 2010/2011 who pays, he says, you know, never less than 13 percent. Do you think people are going to say, wow, that's, you know, I think the number he used was 13.6 percent for those years.
Do you think that's going to be problematic in selling that to the American public?
CHAFFETZ: No. I think this is a side bar attempt to distract from the real issues that are out there. Mitt Romney and Ann Romney have done everything that's required by law. Four years as governor, you know, a lot of financial disclosures out there. What's required by law, the Romneys have put out there in this presidential race. He is one of the most well vetted persons out there.
I think that's the end of the story. I think introducing one other year or something like that will not necessarily solve the insatiable desire by the Democrats to try to distract from the president's record and get into something that really isn't an issue. I have never had anybody ask me about this issue.
O'BRIEN: So the Obama campaign is now saying that if you release - if Mitt Romney will release five years of tax information, they will call off on their additional release of information. So basically they are saying - I know one of the responses, and I think we talked about this in the past, if we give two years, we'll ask for them. If you give five years, they'll ask for more.
They're saying, give five years, and we'll be done. Just release five years.
CHAFFETZ: They did two years required by law and they did four years that was done as the governor of Massachusetts, so I think it's kind of a side issue that's just crazy. I don't really totally understand what they are trying to get at.
But let's get onto the real issues about jobs and the economy. That's the message from the Romney folks.
O'BRIEN: The Kaiser poll is showing that 73 percent of people now are actually focused on Medicare from all of this - really ever since Paul Ryan was tapped to be on the ticket. We can show you that poll right there, 73 percent. And the conversation has moved away from the health care law, 59 percent.
You talk about jobs and the economy. People really aren't discussing that, are they? They are talking about Medicare and talking specifically about Governor Ryan's Medicare plans and specifically about Paul Ryan's budget and Paul Ryan's Medicare plans. Isn't that - isn't that problematic for your party?
CHAFFETZ: No. I think it's great. I think - I was with Speaker Boehner the day before yesterday and he said, hey, let's go out and have this discussion.
It's President Obama who took $700 billion out of Medicare. We're trying to save the program. And I think this is an issue that we should be discussing. I don't have a problem talking about Medicare or Medicaid or some other very important issue. Of course, we should be talking about that.
But I think we've got the winning side of the issue. And Obamacare is not a popular issue for the president. So that's - I think it's fair game.
O'BRIEN: Would you encourage people to go check out the AARP's - you know, what the AARP says about those numbers, what the AARP says about Medicare advantage? Because the AARP, of course, as you know has like 40 million members and they are the advocacy group for older Americans, and they say they are nonprofit and nonpartisan.
And what they say about the law is very different from what you say. Would you encourage, you know, everyone to go check that out?
CHAFFETZ: Hey, I want people to look at the full array of information that is out there. And, yes, let's stick to the facts. But let's also look at the Congressional Budget Office that says Obamacare makes medical expenses more expensive, and let's keep to the facts that President Obama did take $700 billion out of Medicare.
You know, if we stick to the facts, that's great. Of course, look at that side. Look at the other side. Look at the Congressional Budget Office.
O'BRIEN: We have had this conversation 15 times at least, and as you know, it's not taking money out of Medicare. It's a decrease in spending over time, and a decrease that you yourself I'm assuming voted for in Paul Ryan's budget in 2011 and in 2012. He had that same number in his budget. Didn't you vote for that?
CHAFFETZ: It's not exactly the same number. I did vote in favor of the two budgets that we passed. That we passed on the floor of the House. I would also encourage people to look at the fact that Paul Ryan did something with Senator Wyden, a very well-established Democrat, that puts this plan in place to help save Medicare.
O'BRIEN: But now you're criticizing something that you voted for twice, right? I mean, essentially, you voted for it.
O'BRIEN: You did in Ryan's budget.
CHAFFETZ: Soledad, it's a totally different approach. It's not - we didn't just copy what President Obama said. That's not true. That's a misrepresentation.
How to actually do it and execute it is very important. And there are two fundamentally different approaches on how to do this. What - for instance, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the IPAB, is not something that I support, but it's something that directs - takes that $700 billion that Obama took out and puts it in control of these bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.
So, I think - no, I don't think it's right.
Here's what's important. We're going to have to come up with a bipartisan solution in order to make that work. I think Paul Ryan has showed an aptitude to do that by introducing something with Senator Wyden. The president has been in office for four years.
O'BRIEN: Something that includes those same exact numbers that Republicans are bashing.
CHAFFETZ: That's an oversimplification.
O'BRIEN: You and I have spent more time I'm sure reading the CBO reports. But at the end of the day, that same number crunching was voted on by virtually every single Republican in 2011 and then again in 2012. That is fair to say.
CHAFFETZ: The original - but the original criticism was that television commercials and other things, grandma going over the cliff, and that the Republicans are going to destroy Medicare, that's just fundamentally not true. We're supporting this because we want to save Medicare. We have said for those that are 55 years old and older, there are going to be no changes. That is not what the president's plan says.
O'BRIEN: Throwing grandma over the cliff is supposed to get attention. It's one of the many ads that, you know -
CHAFFETZ: It was inaccurate and unfair.
O'BRIEN: But the change, what you call saving is a voucher program, but you give people vouchers for Medicare.
CHAFFETZ: No, it's not.
O'BRIEN: It's not a voucher program?
CHAFFETZ: Soledad, I love being on your program. It is not a voucher program. It is premium support. And that is different than a voucher program.
And everybody somebody says, oh, it's a voucher program - it's false, it's misleading, it's derogatory, and it's inaccurate. That is not what it does. For those that are 55 years and older, it does not change the program for them.
O'BRIEN: You give people money to go and buy their own insurance, right?
O'BRIEN: But we're arguing over semantics. At the end of the day, isn't it essentially you would give someone money to buy their own insurance?
CHAFFETZ: No. A premium support program is different than a voucher program. They're just fundamentally different. And it's intended to scare people.
O'BRIEN: Walk me through how that's different.
CHAFFETZ: Because some people that have maybe more needs, more medical needs, they have less income, they are going to have more flexibility and more assets to go do what they need to do in order to have some choice and flexibility and create computation in the marketplace.
O'BRIEN: So they'll get more money and be able to go buy something specific. It's choice, right? They get to buy something specific.
CHAFFETZ: It's premium support. That's different.
O'BRIEN: They get a voucher to go buy something. We are arguing over semantics. We have to move on.
CHAFFETZ: I would disagree.
O'BRIEN: There are lots of elements of the budget that we can walk through, and I would appreciate it. So we'll keep this conversation going because I think a lot of people are very confused about this and the ads that are over the top on both sides, I will add. That certainly doesn't help on either side.
Always nice to see you, Jason Chaffetz. Appreciate it.
CHAFFETZ: Thanks, Soledad.