Middle class, Medicare issues add more fuel to Obama, Romney debate talk

President Barack Obama, left, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

President Barack Obama, left, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  (AP)

The campaigns of President Obama and Mitt Romney, after attacking each other for months in TV ads, on the campaign trail and through surrogates, upped the ante this weekend – challenging each other to face-to-face talks on such key issues as helping the middle class and saving Medicare.

GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan was the first this weekend to say he’s ready for both sides to get in the same room, and the Obama campaign appeared to respond to the challenge Sunday.

“Now, you’ve heard the president has been talking about Medicare a bit lately,” Ryan, R-Wis., said Saturday at a central Florida retirement community. “We want this debate. We need this debate. And we are going to win this debate.”

Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said twice Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that the president and his team are ready for a debate on plans to help the middle class and save Medicare – if Mitt Romney and Ryan provide more details on their plans.

"We'd like to have a substantive debate about the central question on the table about how to strengthen the middle class," she said. "But to do that they're going to have to tell us what their plans are."

Cutter said minutes later, "We're happy to have a substantive debate (on Medicare,) but we need some substance on the other side."

They will get their opportunity four times starting in early October. The presidential debates are on October 3, 16 and 22. The vice presidential debate between Ryan and Vice President Biden is on October 11.

Medicare emerged as a major campaign issue within hours of Romney announcing last weekend that Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, would be his running mate.

Ryan told seniors Saturday the Romney plan will not change Medicare for those 55 and older, and hammed away that Obama raided $716 billion from the federal health insurance program to pay for his health care reform law.

"We will preserve and protect your benefits," Ryan said. "Medicare will not be used as a piggy bank for ObamaCare.”

Hours later in New Hampshire, Obama told a crowd that his opponents’ plan would increase a senior’s cost by $6,400 annually and mostly benefits the wealthy.

“Their plan makes seniors pay more so they can give another tax cut to millionaires and billionaires,” he told hundreds of people inside the Windham High School, in New Hampshire.

He said Romney’s tax plan would increase taxes on middle-class families by more than $2,000 and characterized his economic plan as “trickle-down snake oil.”