HITTING MCCAIN ON MEDICARE…. It’s been nearly two weeks since the Wall Street Journal reported that John McCain planned to pay for his awful healthcare plan by cutting Medicare. I have to admit, I thought this would be a huge story, but it didn’t generate the expected splash. It was barely brought up in the debates, and the Obama campaign hasn’t emphasized it much at all.

It turns out, Obama’s team was just holding onto it until the stretch run.

In this new ad, which debuted this morning, the voice-over tells the viewer, “John McCain’s health care plan — first we learned he’s going to tax health care benefits to pay for part of it. Now the Wall Street Journal reports John McCain would pay for the rest of his health care plan ‘with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid.’ $882 billion from Medicare alone. Requiring cuts in benefits, eligibility, or both. John McCain, taxing health benefits, cutting Medicare. We can’t afford John McCain.”

What’s more, Obama devoted much of his speech today in Roanoke, Virginia, to the same subject. “It turns out, Senator McCain would pay for part of his plan by making drastic cuts in Medicare — $882 billion worth,” Obama said, according to the prepared text. “$882 billion in Medicare cuts to pay for an ill-conceived health care plan, even as Medicare already faces a looming shortfall.

“Now, this should come as no surprise — it’s entirely consistent with Senator McCain’s record during his 26 years in Congress where, time and again, he’s opposed Medicare. In fact, Senator McCain has voted against protecting Medicare 40 times. 40 times, he’s failed to stand up for Medicare. So what would Senator McCain’s cuts mean for Medicare at a time when more and more Americans are relying on it? It would mean a cut of more than 20 percent in Medicare benefits next year. If you count on Medicare, it would mean fewer places to get care, and less freedom to choose your own doctors. You’ll pay more for your drugs, receive fewer services, and get lower quality care. I don’t think that’s right.”

I suspect the Obama campaign knows what it’s doing, but one wonders if this message might be especially effective in Florida.

In any case, expect to hear quite a bit of this. As Jonathan Chait recently explained, “John McCain proposes to cut Medicare and Medicaid in an election year. You can’t do that. That, alone, is enough to cost you an election.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.