Republican insiders were less pessimistic, but most nonetheless doubted the programs would help the party in November. Twenty-nine percent of them said entitlement politics favor Democrats, and 50 percent predicted they would be a wash. Twenty-one percent cut against the grain and said the politics favored the GOP.
Defending the safety net has been a longtime lynchpin of the Democratic Party's political strategy. And many of the party's insiders think Rep. Paul Ryan's, R-Wis., budget, which would seek to at least partially convert Medicare into a premium-support system, has instilled new life in their old tactic.
"Have you read the Ryan Budget?" one left-leaning Insider asked.
"Republicans can't resist taking on Social Security and Medicare," said another. "No matter how many times they get burned."
Some Republican operatives agreed, even if grudgingly.
"Regrettably, the Ryan budget, while daring and necessary, is too easily demonized," said one GOP Insider.
Polling shows the Ryan budget is deeply unpopular with the public, including seniors, while Medicare remains well-liked. Older voters are an important voting bloc for Democrats to reclaim -- although President Obama won 45 percent of men and women over the age of 65, Republican House candidate won nearly 60 percent of them just two years later during the midterm election, according to exit polls.
"These are sacred programs that people feel they earn, and yes, entitled to," a Democratic Insider said. "Republicans want to put that guarantee in jeopardy."
Perhaps because Ryan's Medicare proposal has received the bulk of the media attention, the insiders focused their comments on that instead of other plans to block-grant Medicaid or create privatized accounts for Social Security.
Despite the longstanding political hurdles, some GOP Insiders expressed optimism their party's agenda to change the country's entitlement programs. The country's burgeoning fiscal deficit has convinced voters something needs to be done about them, they say, and the GOP is the only party offering tangible solutions.
"People know the programs are in trouble and are bankrupting the nation absent reform," one Republican Insider said. "Republicans can pledge to tackle this problem for the sake of our children. Obama and Democrats seem stuck defending the downward spiral everyone knows we're in."
Added another: "Debt issue favors Republicans. This year, debt fears trump Democratic handout, entitlement issues."
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