Squeezed by Obamacare and an unpopular president, Sen. Mark Pryor is turning to the Democratic Party's most tried-and-true talking points in his fight to win reelection: Medicare and Social Security.
The Arkansas Democrat released a new ad Wednesday that assails his presumptive Republican opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton, for supporting cuts to the two entitlements. The ad, described as having "substantial statewide coverage" on air, contrasts that record with Pryor's. The incumbent Democrat, the spot says, wants to cut waste but is also trying to make both programs stronger. "I support this message because cutting waste and fraud is responsible, but cutting benefits isn't," Pryor says at the end of the ad.
A source close to the Pryor campaign said Medicare and Social Security are a "major point of contrast in this race going forward." The same could be said of most Democratic campaigns. Many of the party's strategists still consider a message portraying Republicans as entitlement cutters is highly effective, especially during a time of economic uncertainty. Middle-class voters, they say, consider them central to their personal financial security.
And in a deeply-conservative state like Arkansas, Social Security and Medicare are two of the rare issues favorable to a Democrat lawmaker; even conservatives vehemently oppose cuts to the programs, according to polls. If Pryor can shift the debate to those issues, and away from President Obama and his health care law, it would be a major success.
In the last several elections, the entitlement debate has focused on Medicare. But Cotton's vote earlier this year for a budget that included "chained CPI" provisions to reduce payment to beneficiaries has also left him vulnerable to attacks over Social Security.
Cotton's campaign responded that the ad's focus shows Pryor's reelection effort is already desperate.
"Senator Pryor is already throwing a last-minute Hail Mary pass, and the election is still 12 months away. Senator Pryor must be scared to death that his votes for Obamacare make his reelection impossible," said Cotton spokesman David Ray.