With Election Day a week away, President Joe Biden headed to South Florida on Tuesday to warn — again — that Social Security and Medicare are “under siege” by Republicans and that the future of the programs is on the ballot next week.
Biden and Democrats have frequently tried to score campaign points by targeting Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida and a plan he released earlier this year that proposed to have all federal programs including Social Security and Medicare sunset after five years or be renewed by Congress. Some Republicans have bluntly rejected the Scott plan, but Biden on Tuesday blasted it and other GOP proposals that could change or cut Social Security and Medicare, warning that the GOP would target the programs.
"You've been paying into Social Security your whole life, you earned it, now these guys want to take it away," Biden said, later adding, “They’re going to increase retirement age for Social Security and shrink benefits. That’s what they’re moving to do.”
Biden also touted the Inflation Reduction Act, noting that all Republicans voted against the plan and its provisions to lower prescription drug costs. “This year, we finally beat pharma. We finally beat pharma,” he said. “Big pharma lost and Americans won, thanks again to the Democrats in the Congress.”
Why it matters: It’s no coincidence, of course, that Biden’s event focused on Social Security, Medicare and prescription drug costs was in South Florida, home to a huge senior population. “Democrat strategists worry that Florida, a closely contested political theater for decades, is starting to decidedly lean Republican,” Reuters’ Nandita Bose and Trevor Hunnicutt report. “They hope that they can push back against those trends by making a campaign issue out of purported risks to the popular Social Security and Medicare programs under Republican leadership.”
Yet Biden’s speech was “sparsely attended,” Reuters notes, and the president’s low approval ratings are weighing on Democrats’ congressional prospects. Some top Democratic lawmakers and strategists are now “openly doubting” the party’s election strategy, The New York Times reports.
“For weeks, Democrats have offered a scattershot case of their own, accusing their opponents of wanting to gut abortion rights, shred the social safety net and shake the foundations of American democracy,” the Times’s Lisa Lerer, Katie Glueck and Reid J. Epstein write. “Yet as the country struggles with high gas prices, record inflation and economic uncertainty, some Democrats now acknowledge that their kitchen-sink approach may be lacking. … Others say there has been too much focus on abortion rights and too little attention on worries about crime or the cost of living. And across the country, Democrats point to an inadequate economic message and an inability to effectively herald their legislative accomplishments.”
The bottom line: While Biden has increasingly focused his election message on economic issues, Social Security and Medicare, other Democrats worry the party overall has said too little to address voters’ pocketbook concerns. The Times reports that “Democrats have spent nearly $320 million on ads focused on abortion rights, more than 10 times as much as the $31 million they have spent on spots about inflation, according to data from AdImpact, a media tracking firm.”
With just a week to go, it may be too late for Democrats to move the needle by shifting their messaging.