After the theatrics last night on Social Security I wondered how big a deal this could be with the Republican electorate. The Post’s polling director Peyton Craighill told me that “the GOP has significantly fewer young voters.” In the general registered voting population about 17 percent are 18- to 29-year-olds; only 12 percent of Republicans are in that age bracket. For 30- to 39-year-olds the difference is 15 percent (for all registered voters) vs. 19 percent for Republicans and Republican leaners. Put differently, in the GOP electorate that is likely to be selecting the next GOP nominee, 69 percent are 40 or older. Forty-eight percent are 50 or older.

No wonder the Mitt Romney campaign is recirculating its e-mail from the debate, entitled (all in caps) “RICK PERRY: RECKLESS, WRONG ON SOCIAL SECURITY.” It reads:

“Our nominee has to be someone who isn’t committed to abolishing Social Security, but who is committed to saving Social Security.” – Mitt Romney
Governor Perry Believes Social Security Should Not Exist:
Perry Does Not Believe Social Security Should Exist, Asking: “Why Is The Federal Government Even In The Pension Program. . .?” PERRY: “When you look at Social Security, it’s broke. . . . Get it back to the states. Why is the federal government even in the pension program or the health care delivery program? Let the states do it. . . . That, I will suggest to you, is one of the ways this federal government can get out of our business, save a lot of money and get back to that Constitutional way of doing business in those enumerated powers that they’re supposed to have.” (MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” 11/5/10)
“[A Perry Spokesman] Refused To Explicitly Deny That Perry Wants To ‘End’ The Program, Despite Repeated Attempts . . . To Clarify Perry’s Stance.” (Huffington Post, 9/8/11)
In Fed Up!, Perry Says Social Security Is In Place “At The Expense Of Respect For The Constitution.” “Social Security is something that we’ve been forced to accept for more than 70 years now. . . . at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.” (Rick Perry, Fed Up!, 2010, p. 50)

Perry: “Let The States [Decide] How To Run The Pensions.” PERRY: “There’s a number of things in that book that will strike Americans as horrifying. And we must, as a people, get put back in the box. Get this government back to the limited form that our founding fathers sought. Let the states, whether it is how to run Medicaid, how to run the pensions.” (FOX’s “On The Record With Greta Van Susteren,” 11/8/10)

Perry: “By Any Measure, Social Security Is A Failure.” (Rick Perry, Fed Up!, 2010, p. 62)

Governor Romney Believes Social Security Should Be Fixed For Current And Future Retirees:

Mitt Romney Believes In Entitlement Reform That Preserves Benefits For Current And Future Retirees While Ensuring Long-Term Solvency. “Any serious attempt to rein in spending will have to include entitlement reform. This issue is among the most complex facing policymakers, but some basic principles guide Mitt Romney’s position. First, we must keep the promises made to our current retirees: their Social Security and Medicare benefits should not be affected. But second, we should ensure that the promises that we make to younger generations are promises we can keep. With respect to Social Security, there are a number of options that can be pursued to keep the system solvent — from raising the eligibility age to changing the way benefits are indexed to inflation for high-income retirees.” (Romney for President, “Believe In America: Mitt Romney’s Plan For Jobs And Economic Growth,” 2011, p. 142)

Romney: “Our Nominee Has To Be Someone Who Isn’t Committed To Abolishing Social Security, But Who Is Committed To Saving Social Security.” (Mitt Romney, Remarks At GOP Presidential Debate, 9/7/11)

As they say: “Game on!”

What is surprising is not necessarily the boldness of Perry’s comments but the caviller way he has introduced the issuing, sticking by his fiery language yet lacking a well-thought-out plan to replace the current system. I suspect he’ll have to do things different, and very quickly.