SWANTON, Ohio -- With just 29 days to go until election day, Paul Ryan is trying to shore up every possible military vote, taking the opportunity in the Toledo area Monday to rebut efforts by President Obama's campaign to undermine support among veterans.
The Obama campaign accuses the GOP ticket of policies that "could cut" funding of Veterans' Affairs by $11 billion, citing the House-passed Ryan Budget, which resolved to slice funding for non-defense spending by 19 percent in 2014. Democrats say the Ryan budget didn't specify which categories would be cut so it's fair to assume they would be distributed equally across the board.
Ryan's budget for fiscal year 2013 actually matches the president's discretionary request for veterans at $61.3 billion and in Ohio, Ryan blasted his opponent for "mischaracterizing" his budget.
"Let me make one thing very clear, in the House budget that we drafted and that we passed, we fully met and exceeded the president's request for veterans funding...by 270 million dollars," Ryan said Monday. "That means, we saw a commitment, a promise that our government has made to our veterans. We didn't think the president's went far enough and we expanded it because we know this is a promise that must be kept."
Ryan campaign spokesman Michael Steel explained in a statement that, "over the ten-year window, the House-passed budget is actually above the president's request on both the mandatory and discretionary side of the ledger," with $270 million more in mandatory spending and $16.4 billion more in discretionary spending for "services and benefits earned by veterans."
The competition to show whether President Obama or House Republicans allotted more more funding for veterans is realistically moot, however, when viewed through the lens that a 2013 budget was never agreed upon and that, since Oct. 1, the federal government has been funded by a temporary measure to extend 2012 spending levels for six months.
Military voters could turn this year's presidential race, which both sides anticipate will be close. In recent general elections, veterans have gravitated towards Republican candidates. Fox News exit polls of veterans showed that they favored the Republican ticket 57 percent to 41 percent in 2004, 54 percent to 44 percent in 2008. This cycle is shaping up to be no different; a Gallup poll of veterans conducted in the spring showed that veterans favored Romney over Obama by an overwhelming percentage -- 58 percent to 34 percent.
In Swanton where Paul Ryan gave his speech in an airplane hanger, veterans played a prominent role at the campaign stop: a Purple Heart veteran of the Afghanistan War introduced the vice presidential hopeful, folks wearing American Legion uniform caps sat behind the candidate on stage, and the congressman gave a shout-out to the owner of the venue who he said is a Marine Corp veteran.
The Obama campaign, too, has actively tried to spotlight the president's job initiatives for veterans and first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched a national initiative in 2011 to champion them and their families.