August 19

Karl Rove just announced that his group, Crossroads GPS, is going up with a $700,000 ad buy in Arkansas slamming Dem Senator Mark Pryor for … wanting to shred the safety net. Yes, you read that right.

Of course, to make this case, the Crossroads ad does a very creative cut-and-paste job on Pryor’s quotes. The new Crossroads ad claims:

“Arkansas seniors depend on Social Security and Medicare. It’s troubling that Senator Mark Pryor says we should overhaul Social Security and Medicare. On Social Security, Pryor suggested raising the retirement age.”

The evidence the ad cites for the claim that Pryor would raise the Social Security retirement age is a June 2011 interview Pryor gave to KTSS. The Crossroads ad shows a snippet of the interview in which Pryor is only shown saying the following: “…say that they couldn’t get Social Security until they turn 68 or 69.”

The clear implication is that today’s seniors should worry about this. But the full quote from the interview itself shows Pryor was talking theoretically about such a raise in the retirement age only for today’s teenagers:

“You could pretty easily make Social Security solvent in perpetuity. Probably the biggest change would be, you would take my kids’ generation, teenagers today, and life expectancy is longer, and probably say that they couldn’t get Social Security until they turn 68 or 69.”

Hah, good one, Karl! (This distortion has also been pushed hard by the Cotton campaign.) Meanwhile, the Crossroads ad claims that Pryor’s hostility towards Medicare is evident in the fact that “he was the deciding vote for Obamacare.”

And there is probably no one more gung ho for Obamacare repeal than Tom Cotton. He talks about it all the time. So he obviously would roll back the Arkansas version of the state’s Medicaid expansion, right?

Well, he has consistently refused to say. And in a new interview this week, Cotton was pressed on this question, and he served up pure gibberish:

REPORTER: What happens to those people who enrolled either on Obamacare or on the private option in Arkansas? They gonna be stranded?

COTTON: We’ll see what we can do in terms of reforming it, and potentially protecting some of the people who have already received some of the benefits. But what we want to do is ensure people have control over their own health care choices…that’s why we start over in health care reform, broadly speaking, not just with Obamacare, and get those decisions out of the hands of Washington.

So, we’re going to repeal Obamacare and “start over,” but we’ll make sure “some” of those who are benefiting from it will continue to do so, and you know, maybe we’ll just “reform” the state’s Medicaid expansion. By the way, thanks in part to that private option, no state in the country has shown a steeper drop in the rate of uninsured than Arkansas has. Cotton wants to have it both ways: He needs to be for Obamacare repeal, but he also has to fudge madly on the question of whether he would take its benefits away from people. But there’s no getting around it: Repeal of Obamacare means repealing the state’s Medicaid expansion and the law’s benefits for the newly insured.

In adopting this position, Cotton joins North Carolina candidate Thom Tillis and New Hampshire candidate Scott Brown, who have both mumbled that people will somehow be allowed to keep Obamacare’s benefits after it is repealed, without saying how.

All this once again shows that the politics of health care just aren’t necessarily the sure winner Republicans claim it is. Here you have a major outside group allied with this national Tea Party hero attacking the Democrat for wanting to “overhaul” entitlements (isn’t that the “fiscally responsible” position?) even as that same Tea Party hero voted for the Republican Study Committee budget, which would raise the retirement age on Medicare and Social Security to 70.

My guess is that Cotton and his allies are trying to win back demographics (moderate white women; persuadable seniors) that might be getting pushed away by Pryor’s attacks on his vote on those programs. To do this, they are muddying the waters by claiming Pryor is the real threat to them.

Meanwhile, Cotton is trying to slither away from ownership of the true nature of his Obamacare repeal stance and what it would mean for all those benefiting from the law.

All this, in a deep red state like Arkansas!