COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - Led by President Barack Obama, Democrats claimed on Monday that Republican challenger Mitt Romney privately backs controversial plans to overhaul Medicare and cut trillions from social programs that his new vice presidential running mate has publicly proposed.
Rep. Paul Ryan "has given definition to the vague commitments that Romney has been making," Vice President Joe Biden said as the Democrats welcomed the Wisconsin lawmaker to the race with a barrage of criticism. "There is no distinction" between the two, he said.
Romney lauded his running mate's work as he resumed his own four-day bus trip through campaign battleground states.
Ryan has "come up with ideas that are very different than the president's," Romney said in Florida, the state with the highest percentage of residents age 65 and over.
"The president's idea for Medicare was to cut it by $700 billion. That's not the right answer. We want to make sure that we preserve and protect Medicare."
Romney said there may be differences between his own budget plan and Ryan's, but he refused to say what specific policies his budget would include that would differ from the Wisconsin congressman's detailed proposal.
Democrats counter that Ryan's presence on the ticket will make it easier to tag Romney with political ownership of the budgets that Republicans pushed through the House in 2011 and again this year. They say it will help their candidates in House and Senate races as well as the campaign for the White House.
Obama set out on a three-day tour of Iowa, traveling in a black bus bearing the presidential seal on the side. Ryan was in Iowa, too, Biden in North Carolina, Romney in Florida.
Ryan did not mention Medicare as he made his debut as a solo campaigner on the Republican ticket. Instead, in an appearance at the Iowa State Fair outside Des Moines, he said Obama "is spending our children into a diminished future."
Noting that Obama was also in the state, he told his audience, "As you see the president come through in his bus tour, you might ask him the same question that I'm getting asked from people all around America. And that is, "Where are the jobs, Mr. President?"'
Obama had a jab of his own as he spoke to a crowd in Council Bluffs in the dusty, drought-ridden Midwest.
He said Ryan was among House Republican leaders blocking passage of legislation that "not only helps farmers and ranchers respond to natural disasters but also makes some necessary reforms and gives farmers and ranchers some long-term certainty ...
"So if you happen to see congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities."
Romney's campaign dismissed the criticism. "No one will work harder to defend farmers and ranchers than the Romney-Ryan ticket," said spokesman Ryan Williams.
In criticizing Ryan and other Republican lawmakers, Obama omitted that the GOP-controlled House approved a short-term drought relief bill before Congress left the Capitol for a long summer break. The measure is stuck in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where leaders prefer action on a longer-term farm bill that cleared on a bipartisan vote and includes the emergency aid.
With lawmakers gridlocked and away from the Capitol, Obama said the government would buy more than $150 million worth of meat and fish to help producers.