As voters worry about the economy, Democrats focus on a new message: Save Social Security, Medicare from GOP

Democrats facing relentless GOP attacks on high inflation appear to be moving closer to defending programs like Social Security and Medicare as they seek – in the final weeks of the midterm cycle – to strengthen their position with voters who say they are more distressed about the economy.

In recent days, President Joe Biden and top Capitol Hill lawmakers have bragged about stifling any attempts to cut programs, taking advantage of both the growing likelihood that Republicans will regain control of at least one house of Congress. next month and plans by some GOP lawmakers that could cut rights programs as part of broader government spending changes.

With the Conservatives favored to take over the House around the same time the federal government is approaching its debt limit, GOP politicians have suggested they will use negotiations on raising that threshold as leverage to secure proportional reductions.

The party, however, has yet to publicly coalesce around specific demands, though some have also suggested that funding for Social Security and Medicare be reconsidered.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is expected to be president if his party wins control of the House midterm, said he would not “predetermine” anything when recently asked by Punchbowl News s intended to link rights reform to debt ceiling negotiations. , a remark he later sought to downplay.

Rep. Nancy Mace, RS.C., this week framed the debt ceiling spending negotiations as a matter of fiscal responsibility. She told CNN on Sunday, “The federal government has continued to achieve record year-over-year revenues and hasn’t had to make those tough decisions.”

Rick Scott of Florida, chairman of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, also released a plan earlier this year that all federal funding – including for rights – would have to be rolled back every five years, which would subject the program money to repeated votes in an increasingly polarized Congress.

Republican Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who is running for re-election against Democratic Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes, also called for making Social Security funding discretionary, but argued he wanted to fix rather than eliminate the program .

Democrats are jumping on these remarks and others to pose what they hope will be a clear and stark contrast to Republicans.

“Republican leaders have made it clear that they will crush the economy by putting the United States in default unless we give in to their demand to cut Social Security and Medicare,” Biden said. tweeted sunday. “And that’s more than a promise. It’s a threat.” The president has been issuing such warnings for months.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., echoed that message Sunday on CBS News, saying trading debt ceiling increases for program cuts amounted to “blackmail.”

“You know what they’re talking about? Cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Is that irresponsible? It’s absolutely irresponsible,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., added on CNN. . “You don’t use the debt ceiling to do that.”

President Joe Biden greets DNC staff and volunteers after speaking at Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters, October 24, 2022, in Washington, DC

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Party pundits say the focus marks an acknowledgment that warnings about abortion restrictions are no longer the electoral panacea they appeared to be over the summer, as polls continually point to increases in Relentless prices – and general economic anxiety – remain at the forefront of voters’ concerns.

“I think that’s something we should bring up, because Republicans have said outwardly that they’re going to hold our debt ceiling hostage unless we cut Social Security and Medicare. And I think that’s something super alarming and something voters should know – that’s what they’re voting for,” said Democratic strategist Irene Lin. “In fact, they’re not voting to get rid of inflation. They’re voting for a party that comes after their hard-earned benefits.”

Strategists said they expected such arguments to persist through Election Day, appearing in ads and speeches by Biden and others – tacitly conceding that the party’s abortion-centric campaign is insufficient as November approaches.

“First, obviously this should be front and center in the ads. But second, I think it’s very important for the Biden administration to settle on this message and push it. The White House is a powerful tool to reach the voters,” said Democratic strategist Brad Banon. “I think Democrats see that the economy is the big issue in this campaign. And I think Democrats are focusing on the Medicare and Social Security argument, because that’s our best argument. to address the economic concerns that are so important to voters.”

Among the loudest voices calling for a midterm messaging change was Sanders, who caucus with Democrats and who lamented in an op-ed this month that “if the issue of abortion is to remain front and center, It would be a political mistake for Democrats to ignore the state of the economy and allow Republican lies and distortions to go unanswered.”

“It’s baffling to me that when poll after poll made it clear that inflation was the priority, especially among voters of color, for Democrats to be so obsessed with abortion at the expense of people’s wallets, it was a big mistake,” Lin told ABC. New.

Yet Democrats are also debating whether this new tactic is the right one. Late this summer, agents optimistically pointed to surprising victories for the pro-abortion access message — not just in swing-state districts, but even in historically red Kansas.

Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, leader of the House Democrats campaign group, reiterated that during a Sunday appearance on ABC’s “This Week” and noted Democratic efforts to cap out-of-pocket expenses for some and allow Medicare to negotiate certain drug prices.

Strategists now say Republicans’ own rights comments are natural grounds for attack, though the broadsides assume a fairly high level of attention for Washington politics from voters.

“I think that should be effective given what Republicans have blatantly said they want to do. But it’s a question of whether voters are educated or informed. I think you have to watch closely. Washington, DC, the machinations and what some of these people are saying,” Lin said. “Trying to educate people about this can be difficult, but I think it’s only fair that we raise the alarm about it. “

On top of that, social security doesn’t appear in the polls as a top concern for young voters far from retirement, strategists acknowledge; and though such rights programs have long remained intact, talking about them does not address inflation – today’s main economic concern.

PHOTO: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks at a press conference on House Republicans "Commitment to America" at the Capitol on September 29, 2022.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during a press conference on “House Republicans’ Commitment to America” ​​on Capitol Hill, September 29, 2022.

Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

“I think to have a compelling and winning campaign message, Democrats need to show up not just out of fear of what might happen if Republicans are elected,” said Joseph Geevarghese, executive director of Our Revolution, an advocacy group aligned with Sanders. “They also have to deliver a message of ‘vote for us, and we’ll lower gas prices.’ Vote for us, and we’ll fight like hell to bring back jobs. Vote for us, we will fix supply chains. And that’s what was missing.”

“The headwinds are against us, and so any pivot is timely,” Geevarghese added of the new post. “But do I wish the Democrats had formulated a bold economic program that was going to be deflationary early in the summer? Yes.”

Democratic strategists shared Geevarghese’s concern about the timing of this refocusing, questioning whether Social Security and Medicare ads have enough time to seep into voters’ consciousness in the two weeks before on Election Day and with early voting underway in various swing states.

The party has already missed the mark with a swath of voters, with more than 9 million ballots cast from Arizona to Maine.

It left Republicans chanting that they won the economic message war and similarly scratching their heads over why Democrats didn’t fight back sooner.

“The economy, inflation, rising costs: that’s been the number one issue for voters for months, if not a year,” said GOP pollster Robert Blizzard. “Trying to come up with a message now or a theme now to try to fix the inflation is like getting a few touchdowns and trying to throw a Hail Mary at the end of the game.”

ABC News

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