Democrats seize third rail in closing message focused on Social Security and Medicare

Democrats seize third rail in closing message focused on Social Security and Medicare

Illustration of a shield surrounded by abstract voting shapes.

Illustration: Aida Amer/Axios

In Hail Mary’s attempt to tarnish Republican credibility on the economy, Democrats step up attacks related to Social Security and Medicare in a final midterm period dominated by signs of a wave growing red.

Why is this important: The strategic shift comes after Democrats spent most of the summer and early fall campaigning on a heavily abortion-focused message that polls show is now falling flat. against issues such as inflation.

  • “Democrats don’t have a unified economic message; it just doesn’t exist. There’s no agenda,” said a Democratic strategist working on House campaigns.
  • “In [the] the absence of saying, ‘This is what we stand for’… your only choice is to attack what the other has.”

Driving the news: In a speech to the Democratic National Committee on Monday, President Biden has used the phrase “Social Security and Medicare” 11 times – seizing on the report that some Republicans want to use the debt ceiling to extract entitlement cuts.

In the wings: The The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent House campaigns test messages from Data for Progress showing that Social Security “is one of the most tested issues for Democrats,” according to emails shared with Axios .

  • Other memos on drug pricing, abortion, and domestic manufacturing do not contain such statements about the importance of these messages. A memo on immigration notes that even the most effective statements “were all below average messages compared to other topics we tested.”
  • “We’ve been pushing this issue, I think, since July,” McKenzie Wilson, spokesperson for Data for Progress, told Axios. She said it’s ‘slightly frustrating’ that rights are only now prominently featured in messages from Democrats: ‘I wish this had been picked up sooner, but I’m glad the campaigns are doing it now .”
  • The Democratic strategist working on House campaigns told Axios, “I’ve never said the word ‘Social Security’ in a press release, in a statement, before three… [or] four weeks ago.”

Enlarge: Last month’s rollout by House Republicans of the “Pledge to America,” which includes a vague pledge to “save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare,” was an inflection point. , according to Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.).

  • Protecting rights has been a “key theme” in her campaign, Craig told Axios, but post-deployment she “definitely intensified that message that we should believe Republicans when they tell us what they’re going to do.” TO DO”.
  • Rep. Dan Kildee’s (D-Mich.) campaign said they and Democratic groups collectively ran half a dozen rights-focused ads in his swing district in October alone.
  • Democrats also pointed out Senate GOP campaign leader Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) platform, which proposes ending all federal laws after five years, and the Republican Review Committee’s budget proposal, which suggests raising the eligibility ages for health insurance and social security.

Between the lines: Democrats’ economic messages have largely focused on their legislative record — emphasizing their achievements, such as the Cut Inflation Act, rather than offering a clear, forward-looking platform .

  • Just days ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a rare glimpse into the Democrats’ policy agenda if they retain a majority.
  • “Our message is that we’re going to build on what we’ve already done,” Kildee told Axios, pushing back against the notion that voters have left the Democrats’ economic vision guessing.

Data: Quorum. Note: Data collected daily in digital form from official press releases, newsletters, speaking statements and social media posts and analyzed weekly. Graphic: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

By the numbers: Mentions by congressional Democrats of inflation, drug prices, Social Security and Medicare in official communications rose in August as Congress voted on the Health Care Reduction Act. inflation, according to Quorum data.

  • The legislation included a provision allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, which was heralded by Democrats as a major victory.
  • After the bill passed, mentions of the three problem areas dropped precipitously. But — unlike the other issues — references to Social Security and Medicare began to rise again in October, suggesting that Democrats have rallied around that as their most powerful closing message.

The other side: Some Republicans are quick to refute any notion that they want to cut entitlement benefits.

  • In a statement to Axios, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the House, hit back at a new announcement from Democrat Tony Vargas accusing him of supporting the cuts.
  • “This is the fourth election they’ve tried this on me and voters don’t believe them,” Bacon said. “They throw everything they can [to] see what sticks. They wade. I’ve always been dedicated to saving Social Security and Medicare.”

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