Democrats would do themselves a favor if they paid close attention to this report from Ben Smith, which says that Republicans will respond to the Dem offensive on Medicare by going hard at Dems from the left:
Sen. Chuck Schumer vowed yesterday to make the Medicare changes in Paul Ryan’s budget a defining campaign issue for Senate Republicans in 2012 — but Republicans plan to respond by reviving criticism of cuts to the Medicare Advantage program that were built into the 2010 health care bill...
“He and every other Senate Democrat went on to vote for it.” one Republican staffer emails. “We’d agree with Schumer that in races such as this Medicare will be a key issue.”
Republicans ran hard on the issue of Medicare cuts during the 2010 campaign — and it was part of the reason that senior citizens swung so hard towards GOP candidates.
Of course, Republicans are already pursuing this strategy. In the special House election in New York’s 26th district, where the GOP candidate is in trouble over her support for Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as we know it, Republicans are fighting back by accusing the Democrat of wanting Medicare cuts because she said Medicare should be on the table.
This strategy — attacking Dems from the left on Medicare, just as Dems are doing to Republicans — amounts to an admission that Dems are winning the argument over Ryancare. It’s an effort to muddy the waters by persuading the public that both parties agree on the need to cut Medicare and even change it in a fundamental way — and that the only argument is over the details.
Indeed, in another sign of the game plan in use here, the NRSC just circulated to reporters a poll taken by liberal groups showing that Senate Dems in swing states who agree to deep cuts in Medicare will be vulnerable. The NRSC’s argument is that Dems who voted for Medicare Advantage cuts last year will now be vulnerable to GOP attacks over those cuts if they make Medicare a central issue this year!
Right now, Republicans are pressuring Democrats to produce a plan of their own on Medicare. They argue that not doing so would be an abdication of leadership not to do so in the wake of a report from Medicare and Social Security trustees claiming that the programs are headed for insolvency sooner than expected. In response, Nancy Pelosi is urging Dems to draw a line against any benefits cuts, to focus only on bureaucratic and pharmaceutical cuts. She argues that Dems should insist: “We have a plan. It’s called Medicare.” Dems are currently participating in bipartisan deficit talks led by Joe Biden, and it’s not clear yet what they are willing to agree to on Medicare.
Putting aside the argument over the merits of the GOP and Pelosi policy approaches, the political dynamic here could not be clearer. Dems, you have now been put on notice: If you agree to deep cuts in Medicare in the Biden-led talks, Republicans will see to it that you lose the political advantage you have built up by attacking Ryan’s plan. You may even lose the general advantage you have built up as the creators and defenders of popular entitlements programs that have helped define the Democratic Party for generations. Don’t say you weren’t warned.