(CNN) – Surrogates for Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama argued Tuesday over just how similar Romney's budget plan was to the plan offered by his new running mate Paul Ryan, which proposes major changes to Medicare.
Speaking on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," Romney campaign national co-chairman John Sununu stressed that Romney, as the name on the top of the GOP ticket, was guiding the budget his campaign is proposing, but that elements of Ryan's House GOP budget proposal – including the Medicare provisions – would be included.
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"The nominee is Mitt Romney. Paul Ryan joins Mitt Romney. The budget plan, the approach on Medicare and all of that, is going to be the Romney plan," Sununu said. "What he has is a man as his number two who understands the details of budgets who has demonstrated a willingness to take on tough issues and who knows how to communicate with the public."
Ryan's proposals, first introduced in 2011, include the provision that Medicare-approved private insurers would one day compete with traditional Medicare on an exchange. The proposal would not affect Americans over age 55. The plan's opponents say that would increase the financial burden on senior citizens.
On his website, Romney says Ryan's Medicare proposal "almost precisely mirrors Mitt's ideas," which include repackaging Medicare spending "as a fixed-amount benefit to each senior that he or she can use to purchase an insurance plan."
At a press conference in Miami Monday, Romney was asked to address the similarities and differences with Ryan on Medicare.
"We haven't gone through piece by piece and said 'oh, here's a place where there's a difference,'" Romney said. "I can't imagine any two people even in the same party who have exactly the same positions on all issues, but my plan for Medicare is very similar to his plan for Medicare."
Sununu on Tuesday pointed to one difference between the two plans, saying Ryan's budget included a provision from Obama's plan that Romney would exclude.
"For example, when Obama gutted Medicare by taking $717 billion out of it, the Romney plan does not do that. The Ryan plan mimicked part of the Obama package there. The Romney plan does not. That's a big difference," Sununu said.
The $717 billion figure derives from a Congressional Budget Office evaluation from July 24, which measured the impact of repealing the health care overhaul law known by many as "Obamacare."
The report says that under the repeal measure, "Spending for Medicare would increase by an estimated $716 billion over that 2013-2022 period." Those spending increases would be a result of more spending on hospital and medical insurance, offset by a decrease in prescription drug coverage.
The letter also notes that the projected $716 billion increase in Medicare spending if the measure is repealed does not signal a $716 billion decrease if the measure stays in place - which is Romney's argument.
David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama's re-election campaign, said on Tuesday that Sununu wasn't "talking straight" on the connection between the Romney and Ryan plans, pointing to the presumptive GOP nominee's own remarks in Miami.
"Yesterday Gov. Romney was asked to lay out some of the differences and he couldn't do it," Axelrod said, adding that Romney himself had indicated approval of Ryan's budget in the past.
"In terms of whether Ryan, what role he will play, I can only tell you that Gov. Romney said that he is the intellectual leader of the Republican Party," Axelrod said. "That suggests a much larger role. When you look at their proposals side-by-side, they are really quite similar."
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