Senate race focuses on Social Security, Medicare

Chris Murphy speaks to Yalies on Old Campus.
Chris Murphy speaks to Yalies on Old Campus. Photo by Benjamin Ackerman.

With just over a month before Election Day, U.S. Senate candidates Chris Murphy and Linda McMahon have recently focused their attention on two hot-button issues — Social Security and Medicare.

The race for retiring Conn. Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s seat has grown increasingly important within the past several months, as election victories in a handful of key states will ultimately determine which party controls the Senate. In light of the race’s significance, the candidates have shifted their energy from criticizing the opponent’s personal finances in favor of directing a greater focus toward arguing policies that primarily affect the elderly. According to the latest U.S. census data, Conn. has the ninth largest proportion of state residents over the age of 65, and Murphy and McMahon are hoping the new campaign focus will draw these key voters on Election Day.

The most recent round of political attacks began when Democrat Murphy called McMahon’s stance on Social Security “radical” at a rally in Hartford last Thursday. He was referring to McMahon’s endorsement of a “sunset provision” for Social Security — a legislative term for placing an expiration date on a law unless it is renewed.

Murphy told the Huffington Post he was “shocked” by McMahon’s comments, adding it would be a “disaster for Conn. seniors” if Social Security were to be phased out over the next decade.

On Monday, seniors protested outside of McMahon’s North Haven headquarters, carrying signs that read “Celebrating 75 Years of Social Security.”

McMahon’s campaign responded by claiming that Murphy took her remarks out of context. McMahon was simply pointing out that the program would need alterations in order to be realistically sustained, but she would never vote to dissolve it, campaign spokesman Todd Arbajano said.

In her comments at the April Tea Party meeting, McMahon did not specify a specific end date for Social Security but rather called for bipartisan revision.

“We cannot continue doing things the way we are doing with Social Security,” McMahon said. “We’re simply going to be bankrupt and have to take a look to make sure that 10, 15 years down the road it’s still going to fund itself.”

Murphy’s campaign followed up by criticizing McMahon for failing to elaborate on specific policies to modify Social Security that she would support. According to Eli Zupnick, spokesman for Murphy, McMahon “doesn’t want to talk about her right-wing plans on the campaign trail.”

“She is doing everything she can to hide her views from Conn. voters who have rejected these policies over and over, but our campaign is going to make sure voters learn the truth about McMahon’s record and her right-wing policies that are wrong for middle-class families,” Zupnick said.

Arbajano responded to the Murphy campaign’s criticsm by defending McMahon’s desire to establish checks on both Social Security and Medicare finances, adding that the Republican candidate would never consider privatizing Social Security.

Murphy has recently attempted to link McMahon’s platform to vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s proposal to convert Medicare into a premium support system. But the Republican candidate has distanced herself from the Ryan plan, Arbajano said, adding that “Linda McMahon will never support a budget that cuts Medicare or Social Security.”

The most recent Real Clear Politics poll puts Murphy ahead of McMahon by two percentage points, widening his lead since the Social Security conversation first began last week.

Social Security and Medicare reform is widely expected to be a major topic during this Sunday’s televised debate between the Senate candidates. It will be the first of four debates agreed upon by both campaigns.

The Oct. 1 Real Clear Politics poll predicted McMahon receiving 41.7 percent of the popular vote and Murphy receiving 43.7 percent with a 2.2 percent margin of error.

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