Dem delegates told rural areas key to Pa. win.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Here’s a stratagem for Pennsylvania you don’t hear every day (OK, basically never) from Democrats: do well in the rural center, win the whole state.

“Central Pennsylvania is where the battle is going to be won,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. “They can try to suppress the vote in the cities of Pennsylvania, and we can try to respond to that,” he said, referring to the state’s new voter ID law, “But it’s important to do well in the rural areas. If we do, it takes a lot of pressure off Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.”

Vilsack, a Pittsburgh native and the former governor of Iowa, said that farm production will be up this year despite widespread areas of drought. He noted that administration programs have poured money into farm country for rural housing and other benefits, and that the Affordable Care Act overhaul of health coverage is helping rural people.

“This president has invested more in rural America than any president since Franklin Roosevelt,” Vilsack said. “And the result of this is we are now faced with a rural economy  stronger than people realized.”

Sen. Bob Casey, the chairman of the state’s delegation, said that in addition to re-nominating Obama and Vice President Biden, and enjoying each other’s company, the delegates had “serious business to transact” as carriers of campaign messages for the party.

“We have to make clear there are differences between us” and the Republicans, Casey said. “The difference on an issue like Medicare has never been more pronounced…The difference is this: We will preserve the guaranteed Medicare benefit. They will end it. It’s not that complicated, OK? So let’s not over complicate it.”

He was referring to the proposal in the budget plan advanced by GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee from Wisconsin, that would replace the current program for future seniors with a voucher-like system, giving beneficiaries money to buy private insurance.

Citing economists’ studies of the proposal, the Democrats contend that the federal  “premium support,” which is what the GOP prefers to term the vouchers would never keep up with medical inflation, putting a greater out-of-pocket burden on beneficiaries.