Sigh: GOP ad in Montana knocks Democrat for supporting Social Security reform

Dear Republicans,

When your opponent is right about a delicate issue, please try to resist the siren song of political expediency, and refrain from clobbering him over the head with it for fleeting gain.


Background: Montana’s GOP Senate candidate, Congressman Steve Daines, is out with an attack ad that assails Democrat John Walsh’s openness to discussing partial Social Security privatization as “too risky:”

The spot begins with a plucky, likeable senior citizen and cancer survivor hitting Walsh for defending Obamacare.  So far, so good. She then raps the healthcare law for “cutting billions of dollars from Medicare,” which is absolutely true, even as some of those cuts have been cynically postponed by the White House on behalf of anxious Democrats. But the crucial and fair-minded conservative point to make on this front is that Obamacare slashed hundreds of billions from one soon-to-be insolvent entitlement program in order to fund a brand new one — while preposterously double-counting those savings as also shoring up Medicare’s books. Drawing that important distinction isn’t even attempted in this short ad, which is too bad. By contrast, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s team was much more careful and effective in employing this line of attack in their tough counter-punch ad that pushed back against a mendacious criticism from his Democratic opponent:

“Grimes supports Obamacare, which cuts $700 Billion from seniors’ Medicare. That’s how Obama and Grimes will pay for Obamacare.”

The worst bit of Daines’ commercial, though, is the Democrat-style attack that even considering some form of private sector partnership as part of a Social Security reform package for future seniors is tantamount to a risky, anti-seniors scheme.  In fact, this exact same critique was originally leveled against Walsh by a fellow Democrat during the primary campaign:

Walsh didn’t even come close to endorsing full privatization in that clip, and he’d almost certainly get in line to torpedo any solid reform plan as a loyal member of Harry Reid’s majority.  But he at least expressed some willingness to consider an array of options, including this free market solution.  Republicans shouldn’t use that, of all things, against him.  I fully understand that campaigns are rough-and-tumble affairs, and that juicy attacks are sometimes irresistible, even if they’re not entirely ideologically consistent.  But entitlement reform is one of the defining issues of our time.  Our nation’s finances are being overrun by unpaid-for promises, and it will require political will and courage to do something to stem the tide.  Just today, the House Budget Committee released a fact sheet noting that the CBO’s most recent long-term budget outlook “increased [its] measure of Social Security’s unfunded liability by 25 percent.”   It’s fairly unusual to encounter any Democrat whose default setting does not entail whistling past the graveyard while mindlessly demagoging the issue for temporary gain; that’s their party’s whole playbook.  So “rewarding” that rare bird with a dumb Republican attack from the Left is maddening and depressing.  I wish the Daines camp hadn’t gone there, especially because their man is clearly conservatives’ best choice for the state and the country.  He’s also up double digits on Walsh, so this move seems particularly gratuitous and smacks of needless desperation.  I’ll leave you with some uplifting news from the 2014 Senate battle, with Stu Rothenberg shifting his ratings of two key races in Republicans’ direction.  Rothenberg praised Colorado’s Cory Gardner as perhaps “the best GOP challenger in the country,” and declared a pure toss-up in Iowa, where conservative Joni Ernst has briefly stepped away from the campaign trail to fulfill her annual training duties with the Iowa National Guard.  During her absence, American Crossroads is running this ad in her stead:

Braley’s infamous dissing of Grassley and farmers at a fundraiser with out-of-state trail lawyers is just one element of his ongoing image struggles.  He also whined about the Congressional gym being closed during the government shutdown, and threatened to sue a neighbor over a bizarre and frivolous issue.  An aggressively litigious trial lawyer?  Go figure.