A question being raised by Eric Pianin at the Fiscal Times brings up some memories for me from the period when Rick Perry was just jumping in to the presidential race. Does Gingrich have some nuggets buried away in his extensive political record which opponents – or the President in the general election – might use to create some sort of wedge between the former Speaker and senior citizens?
Why Senior Voters Will Turn Against Newt Gingrich
As he surges to the head of the Republican presidential pack, Newt Gingrich is enjoying remarkable support from older voters who like his conservative edginess and professorial command of issues. But seniors should be careful what they wish for.
At a time when seniors groups are hollering “Don’t touch my Social Security and Medicare,” the former House speaker wants to touch both, in profound ways. Gingrich believes that Americans should be allowed to choose a private retirement account, in which all the money deposited belongs to them instead of a government-controlled program like Social Security. And he has advocated a private alternative to the Medicare health care system for seniors that he says would enhance competition and bring down overall health care costs…
“If you are for destroying Social Security – if you like that idea – then you should support Speaker Gingrich,” Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, told The Fiscal Times Wednesday. “Because his proposal of diverting I think about a half . . . of the payroll tax into private accounts would create such a shortfall [in the trust fund] that the solvency would be dramatically reduced.”
This line of thought could pretty much be taken as a boilerplate from attacks on the Paul Ryan plan over the last year. (Just think of an advertisement where it’s a Newt lookalike pushing granny off the cliff in her wheelchair.) But these are issues which carry a lot of weight with voters in general and seniors in particular. It also highlights the challenges for a candidate like Newt who has been around for so long. He’s taken positions on pretty much everything under the sun, and it won’t take any of his detractors very long to come up with something to use.
The reason I brought up Rick Perry at the top of this piece is the concerns which many of us raised when he first threw his hat into the ring. There’s a liberal, Democratic marketplace for a flood of political advertisements next year which feature Perry calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme, playing over and over in every battleground state. Is this what Newt will have in store should be become the nominee?
But perhaps that dog won’t hunt after all. Thus far it certainly doesn’t seem to be damaging his chances in Florida, where the senior vote is numerous, active and vocal. Newt is currently leading Mitt by a 35 – 22 margin. But it’s also important to remember that Newt doesn’t need to worry about a Mediscare attack coming from his own Right flank. It’s unlikely that any of the serious GOP primary contenders are going to come out with ads warning that Gingrich is out to destroy Social Security when they will need to make the same arguments he is making against Obama in the general election. The real test will come after he is the nominee and the DNC begins showing Floridians that picture of Newt with Granny at the edge of the cliff.