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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Messaging the Meltdown for Seniors

The meltdown of top financial institutions has left millions of American workers in doubt about the security of their retirement assets, and it’s a particularly urgent concern for those nearing retirement age. The crisis presents an opportunity for the Obama campaign to make significant inroads into a major demographic group that has trended toward McCain thus far and who are now feeling the big hurt — seniors.
Amazingly, the GOP nominee has cooperated in trashing his own credibility on the topic. Here’s John McCain breaking bad on golden parachutes:

Speaking to NBC’s Matt Lauer about the current crisis on Wall Street, the Republican nominee said executives have “treated it like a casino and need to be held accountable and stop walking away with these fat-cat packages.”

Ridiculous as it sounds, coming from one of the Fat Cats’ most reliable Senate bellhops, lots of people will buy it. Why? Because it fills a void. Working people do want more accountability and more fairness in retirement pensions. To those who are not familiar with his track record on social security, pension reform and banking regulation, it sounds plausible, and it fits in well enough with the McCain campaign’s ‘Maverick’ meme, bogus though it is.
But it can only work if Senator Obama and the Democrats let it go unchallenged. Let all Democrats hasten to point out at every opportunity that McCain’s trusted business and economic advisor/sidekick/mouthpiece, Carly Fiorina floated away from her unproductive tenure at the helm of Hewlett-Packard with a golden parachute worth a cool $42 million.
One way to do the the soundbite for speeches, ads, debates and interviews:

John McCain recently called for more accountability for corporate executives with “fat cat packages.” You can bet he didn’t get that idea from his top business advisor Carly Fiorina, who left Hewlett-Packard with a $42 million dollar golden parachute. Now millions of American workers are seeing their retirement saving slashed.

Or, on Social Security reform:

John McCain was one of the champions of putting your social security assets in the private sector. Imagine the shape millions of working families would be in now if he got his way. We need better judgment in the white house.

It appears the Obama is on the right track. Here’s what he said yesterday in New Mexico:

“In the next 47 days, you can fire the whole trickle-down, on-your-own, look-the-other-way crowd in Washington who has led us down this disastrous path,” he thundered. “Don’t just get rid of one guy. Get rid of this administration. Get rid of this philosophy. Get rid of the do-nothing approach to our economic problem and put somebody in there who’s going to fight for you.”

When we say “It’s the economy, stupid,” we’re basically talking about four key concerns — jobs, pay, retirement and health security, and now we can add housing — all of which have been put at risk for millions by GOP-driven deregulation and the current meltdown. Democrats have been given a timely opportunity to demonstrate leadership and the superiority of their track record and policies as champions of genuine economic security. Making the most of it with seniors will serve us well.

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