Two red-state Democrats are facing Republican attacks for wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare, even though Republicans have been pushing Democrats for years to support cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
The ads by Crossroads GPS, a political spending group co-founded by Karl Rove, target Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Spliced with ominous music, the spots bash the vulnerable incumbents as a threat to the two retirement programs.
The ad against Pryor, called “Troubling,” attacks the senator for saying in 2011 that Social Security and Medicare should be overhauled. “On Social Security, Pryor suggested raising the retirement age,” a narrator says. “And on Medicare, Pryor was the deciding vote for Obamacare which will cut Medicare Advantage benefits for our seniors. … Call Senator Pryor, tell him Arkansas seniors depend on our benefits.”
The ad against Hagan, called “Tax & Debt,” attacks her for having “voted for trillions in wasteful spending and debt” and for being a “big believer in a controversial plan that raises the retirement age … and increases out of pocket Medicare costs.” The plan in question is the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission proposal, which includes a variety of debt reduction policies including entitlement cuts and tax increases. Hagan has expressed support for the template.
The ads are somewhat confusing because top Republicans have led the push to cut Medicare and Social Security. The costly programs are seen by conservative activists as a sign of big government run amok and a financial albatross around the country’s neck. GOP leaders have repeatedly called on President Barack Obama to work with them to cut the two safety-net programs.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) attacked Obama earlier this year for backing off a proposal to cut future Social Security benefits. Both have supported cuts to the program. On Medicare, Republicans have been all over the map, attacking Obamacare for slashing reimbursements to providers and insurers, but voting to make the same cuts permanent under Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget.
The problem for Republicans is that although activist conservatives want to cut Social Security and Medicare, the programs are very popular among voters, particularly seniors, who make up a large chunk of the GOP base.
Democrats chafed at the ads.
“The only candidates in these races who support plans that endanger seniors by putting Medicare and Social Security at risk are Tom Cotton and Thom Tillis,” said Justin Barasky, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, referring to the Republican Senate nominees from Arkansas and North Carolina.