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Town Hall Debate: Will Voters Ask the Medicare and Social Security Questions Reporters Haven't?

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The president may still be determined to cut these programs as part of a "Grand Bargain." If so, voters deserve to know that. If they did, chances are they would force him to make a commitment to back down from that idea before they go to the polls. That's exactly what the country needs.

It's also what his party needs. Nobody should be pressuring the president more on this issue than his fellow Democrats. Recent polling shows that the party has regained the advantage on this issue that it lost in 2010 -- a decisive factor in its loss of Congress -- at least among seniors who trust Democrats more than Republicans by an 18-point margin. But the president himself has a seven-point deficit on this topic.

President Obama's talk of benefit cuts has been wounding him in the polls for for well over a year, and his equivocation in the last debate didn't help him or his party.

Voters Must Do the Reporters' Job For Them

Biden's forceful -- and startingly direct -- defense of Social Security got almost no coverage last month. Not a single reporter considered it important enough to ask the president whether he agreed with his vice president about an issue that is personally critical to millions of Americans.

Tuesday's presidential debate will take place in a Town Hall format. That's a relief, since moderator Candy Crowley has a long history of repeating shallow and unfounded cliche criticisms of "latte-drinking" Democrats. The only questions she might be counted on to ask would be as misinformed and misleading as Raddatz's.

Let's hope these voters will do what the White House press corps hasn't troubled itself to do: ask the president and his challenger some direct questions about Social Security and Medicare. It's not as if the public isn't interested. It is. And it's not as if they don't want these programs' benefits protected: They do, by overwhelming margins.

This is an opportunity for voters to penetrate the media bubble and ask both candidates some real questions about Social Security and Medicare -- not about whether they're "going broke," but about whether they'll defend them.

Questions Voters Want Answered

Mr. President: Will you agree with your vice president that there will be absolutely no changes to Social Security benefits while you are in office?

Mr. Romney: You have retreated from your party's original plan to dismantle Medicare as we know it. But what do you say to studies which show that we would wind up paying much more for health care out of our own pockets under your plan, and that it would put too much of our money in private insurance company's hands?

Mr. President and Gov. Romney:  Health care in our country costs much more than it does anywhere else. That, and not benefits, is what's driving Medicare's future cost problems. What are you planning to do about it?

Mr. Romney: Your former company, Bain Capital, bought several companies that then began cheating the Medicare system. Isn't Bain-style high-pressure financing one of the things that's driving our medical costs sky-high? What will you do to fix it?

Mr. President: What will you do to fix our real cost problem, the Bain-style greed factor in our health care system?

Mr. President:  When you ran in 2008 you promised us that people under 65 years of age would be able to purchase Medicare (the so-called 'public option'), and that we wouldn't be forced to purchase for-profit insurance under your plan. What happened to that promise, and what will you do to fulfill it in your second term?

Mr. President and Gov. Romney:  We've heard all this talk about Social Security "going broke," yet it will continue to collect hundreds of billions every year. Isn't it more accurate to say it will need additional funds sometime in the 2030's? What do you think of this scaremongering, and why aren't we being told the truth?

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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