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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

New DCORPS Analysis: Voter’s Views on Economic Renewal, Debt Reduction

Democracy Corps has an important report on voter attitudes, “The Big Decisions Ahead on Economic Renewal and Reduced Debt,” which should be of considerable interest Democratic candidates and their campaigns.
The DCORPS analysis is based in part on a new poll, co-sponsored by Democracy Corps and Campaign for America’s Future, with support from MoveOn.org, AFSCME and SEIU. The analysis provides compelling data indicating that candidates who advocate cuts in Social Security benefits and show little interest in creating jobs “face major voter backlash.”
The poll, which was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research from 7/26-29, provides revealing opinion data and analysis on social security, job-creation and deficit-reduction. From the Democracy Corps analysis of the data:

Voters are united on this key point: Social Security and Medicare are off-limits as a way to reduce the deficit…As Social Security celebrates its 75th anniversary this week in the midst of this troubled economy, voters across the political divide want these programs defended….Voters say spending cuts for Social Security and Medicare should not be part of any deficit reduction plan by a wide 68 to 28 percent margin.

DCORPS founder Stan Greenberg and Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) co-director Robert Borosage held a ‘press call’ on August 12th discussing the implications of the poll for the debate over jobs and deficits. On the same call, progressive leaders from MoveOn.org Political Action and CAF announced major campaign to get candidates on record opposing any cuts in benefits, including raising the retirement age.
In his recent HuffPo article, on the tea party and Republicans Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, who lead the effort to stop Bush’s privatization schemes, explains:

Major Progressive organizations have launched a new coalition to press Members of Congress to defend Social Security and Medicare, and the issue has vaulted to the top of the issue agenda for Democratic candidates across the country. Democratic House Members conducted more than 100 events to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Social Security over the last weekend — and to pledge their opposition to privatizing Social Security or cutting its benefits. That includes commitments not to raise the retirement age — an idea that is just terrific for guys who fly around in corporate jets, but doesn’t go over so well if you happen to haul bricks on construction sites or flip mattresses in hotel rooms for a living……Americans United for Change — which was first organized to run the successful campaign to defeat Bush’s 2005 attempt to privatize Social Security — has launched a major new initiative to stop the “Republican sneak attack on Social Security and Medicare.”
…The public soundly rejected President Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security in 2005. You’d think that the experience of the stock market meltdown where millions of people saw their life’s savings go up in smoke would be enough to convince even the most orthodox right-winger that it’s a terrible idea to tie Social Security to the ups and downs of the stock market. But economic reality doesn’t seem to break through the Republican’s ideological and self-interest blinders.

The polling data suggests that House GOP leader John Boehner’s call for Social Security benefit reductions to pay for tax cuts for rich could sink Republican candidates. Adds Creamer:

Congressman Paul Ryan, who would be Chairman of the House Budget Committee if the Republicans were to take back control of the House, has published a detailed “Roadmap” on how he would privatize Social Security and abolish Medicare and replace it with vouchers for private insurance. Much of that “roadmap” was actually included in the Republican budget alternative that Ryan convinced the Republicans to support last year. Now that vote has begun to come back to haunt some of the members who would just as soon keep their economic views safely in the closet before the voters cast their ballots.

It appears Democrats have much to gain by focusing media attention on GOP “reforms” that weaken Social Security, whether reduction in benefits or raising the retirement age. Seniors over age 60, who comprised 29 percent of the electorate in the 2006 midterms, will likely be a pivotal force on November 2nd. As Creamer notes of Republicans,

…Many of those swing districts that they would so dearly like to win this fall have lots of senior voters. They had been counting on scaring those voters into supporting Republican candidates with visions of “death panels” and lies about health reform-induced cuts in Medicare.

But it looks like Republicans made a serious mistake, says Creamer:

Many of those seniors don’t like “government spending” — but by that they are definitely not referring to their Social Security or Medicare. They view both as social insurance — as programs they have paid into throughout their working lives in expectation that they would be entitled to the advertised benefits — the same way they would under any insurance plan. In focus groups the moment you tell these voters that Republicans support privatizing Social Security or replacing Medicare with vouchers for private insurance, Republican support plummets.
…The Republicans have a lot to worry about when it comes to these issues. Polls show that if the voters are talking about Social Security and Medicare on Nov. 2, Republican fortunes will drop like a rock. In fact, these two issues are like kryptonite to Republican chances. That’s why you’ll see mainstream Republicans scramble like mad to downplay their true intentions — and change the subject over the weeks ahead. Republican Leader John Boehner — who completely supports Ryan’s “Road Map” — made the mistake several weeks ago of blurting out that he supported raising the Social Security retirement age to 70. Since then he has ducked and weaved when it comes to Social Security.

Despite the gloomy projections of Democratic defeat in the upcoming midterms, the DCORPS analysis indicates that Dems have a formidable card to play regarding the Republicans’ unpopular positions on Medicare and Social Security. And if Dems can find a way to show that GOP candidates are equally-clueless about the public’s desire for a stronger federal investment in creating jobs, predictions of a Republican takeover of congress may prove to be a misguided fantasy.

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