In early April, shortly after the Obama administration announced extraordinary enrollment totals in the Affordable Care Act, the New York Times reported that Democrats were starting to walk with a spring in their step. “Obamacare” was finally succeeding, unemployment was dropping, and for a little icing on the cake, House Republicans were needless embracing a right-wing budget plan.
“Thank you, thank you Congressman Paul Ryan,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said.
Durbin isn’t the only one. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is very likely quietly thanking the far-right House Budget Committee chairman, too. Andrew Prokop reported today:
[T]he Pryor campaign has been aggressively advertising on just two issues: Medicare and Social Security. [Pryor’s Republican challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton] “voted to raise the age to Medicare for 70,” one narrator intones. “Cotton would raise Medicare and Social Security to 70. Look it up! He’s a real threat to your retirement,” says an older woman named Linda. In another ad, Pryor himself says he wrote a bill to “stop politicians from destroying Medicare,” and helpfully adds, “My opponent voted to withhold benefits until age 70. And I’m trying to stop that.” The Pryor campaign has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars airing these ads in the past month.
Making matters slightly more serious, note that Cotton not only voted for Ryan’s far-right budget blueprint – taking ownership of all of its provisions, including the plan to effectively privatize Medicare out of existence – the Arkansas Republican also backed the Republican Study Committee that called for raising the Social Security retirement age to 70.
It’s hardly a secret that Arkansas is a deep-red state, but it’s also a state with plenty of low-income families that rely on social-insurance programs. No matter how ruby-red Arkansas gets when it comes to the major issues of the day, hostility towards Social Security and Medicare is a losing strategy in the state.
And so Pryor’s task is simple: inform voters with straightforward facts about Cotton’s right-wing vision for Social Security and Medicare. Lather, rinse, repeat.
So far, it’s proving to be surprisingly effective. In February, Cotton led in most polls and every Beltway pundit saw Pryor as the proverbial Dead Man Walking.
In recent weeks, however, as voters statewide start to get to know Cotton a little better, most independent polling shows Pryor leading, in some cases by double digits.
One wonders how many other Democrats are going to be saying, “Thank you, thank you Congressman Paul Ryan” in about six months.