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.
What We're Following See More »
Evan McMullin, the independent conservative candidate who may win his home state of Utah, is quietly planning to turn his candidacy into a broader movement for principled conservatism. He tells BuzzFeed he's "skeptical" that the Republican party can reform itself "within a generation" and that the party's internal "disease" can't be cured via "the existing infrastructure.” The ex-CIA employee and Capitol Hill staffer says, “I have seen and worked with a lot of very courageous people in my time [but] I have seen a remarkable display of cowardice over the last couple of months in our leaders.” McMullin's team has assembled organizations in the 11 states where he's on the ballot, and adviser Rick Wilson says "there’s actually a very vibrant market for our message in the urban northeast and in parts of the south."
One of the main reasons for the recent Obamacare premium hikes is that many potential enrollees have simply decided to pay the tax penalty for remaining uninsured, rather than pay for insurance. More than 8 million people paid the penalty in 2014, and preliminary numbers for 2015 suggest that the number approaches 6 million. "For the young and healthy who are badly needed to make the exchanges work, it is sometimes cheaper to pay the Internal Revenue Service than an insurance company charging large premiums, with huge deductibles."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that "there was “precedent” for a Supreme Court with fewer than nine justices—appearing to suggest that the blockade on nominee Merrick Garland could last past the election." Speaking to reporters in Colorado, Cruz said: "I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.”