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What AARP Has to Do With Vice Presidential Debate Between Biden and Ryan What AARP Has to Do With Vice Presidential Debate Between Biden and Ry...

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Blogs / Influence

What AARP Has to Do With Vice Presidential Debate Between Biden and Ryan

Students posing as Vice President Joe Biden and his Republican challenger, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., walk on stage during set up for Thursday's vice presidential debate, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, at Centre College in Danville, Ky.(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

October 11, 2012

There are two things to know about one of Washington's biggest advocacy groups, AARP, and tonight's vice presidential debate.

First is that the organization doesn't endorse presidential candidates. Second is that AARP is a sponsor of tonight's clash between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan at Centre College in Danville, Ky.

So, the advocacy group that represents nearly 37 million members doesn't have a horse in this race? Not exactly.

"Our goal is to get these candidates to really talk about these issues a little more fully than they have in the past," AARP Senior Vice President John Hishta told the Alley.

The best-case scenario for AARP, which is also planning co-sponsorships of the remaining presidential debates in Hempstead, N.Y., and Boca Raton, Fla., is that both Biden and Ryan engage in a discussion about the future of entitlements like Social Security and Medicare and "tell the American people what they would do," Hishta said.

Asked how the group plans to reach Republicans who might be less than sympathetic after AARP's support of the Affordable Care Act and after Obama twice cited the group in the first debate, Hishta said it's no secret Republicans weren't happy with the president's health care plan, but when it comes to Social Security and Medicare all the polling he's seen has cut across political parties.

 "It really doesn't matter where you are on the political spectrum," he said.

As a vice presidential debate sponsor, AARP is hosting a series of events, including an official ribbon-cutting today and a call to post a la Kentucky Derby, complete with the playing of "My Old Kentucky Home."

So far in 2012, AARP has spent nearly $4.7 million on lobbying and was among the top 40 groups lobbying on health issues, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

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