Romney, Perry, front-runners, Social Security and “Ponzi Schemes”
So, Tim Pawlenty endorses Mitt Romney. But Republican voters think Rick Perry probably has the best chance of defeating Barack Obama. Byron York gives us the lowdown:
In a new CNN poll that finds Perry at the front of the Republican pack, the Texas governor’s lead among GOP voters age 65 and older is actually bigger than his lead among younger voters. Fifty-two percent of respondents over 65 say Perry is their choice for president, versus just 21 percent who choose Romney. In the overall numbers, Perry leads Romney 32 percent to 21 percent, with Ron Paul following at 13 percent, Bachmann and Gingrich at seven percent each, Herman Cain at six percent, and Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum at two percent each.
Republican voters over 65 also believe Perry has the best chance of defeating President Obama in next year’s general election. Perry leads Romney 58 percent to 22 percent among older voters on that question.
Of course, Republican votes over 65 are a key demographic which one might believe would be most put off by Perry’s “Ponzi scheme” meme concerning Social Security, right? But, as York points out, that doesn’t seem to be the case:
Breaking down the age results in different categories, Perry leads Romney by 24 percent to 19 percent among GOP voters under 50. Among GOP voters 50 and older, Perry leads Romney by 41 percent to 22 percent.
The results seem likely to encourage Perry to stick with his "Ponzi scheme" critique of Social Security. At the same time, though, Perry might choose to gradually walk away from those incendiary words while leaving his essential assessment of Social Security unchanged. In a new op-ed in USA Today, for example, Perry writes that "Americans deserve a frank and honest discussion of the dire financial challenges facing" Social Security. But he doesn’t use the words "Ponzi scheme." As for the critics, especially Romney, the results could cut two ways. They might make Romney and others dial back the criticism a bit, on the grounds that it’s not working among the voters most personally interested in Social Security. Or the results might actually encourage the critics to attack Perry more, on the grounds that voters don’t know enough about the "Ponzi scheme" issue and might change their opinion of Perry if they did. The poll results published by CNN poll do not cover the Social Security issue specifically.
Good analysis. And that sets up tonight’s debate in Tampa. Will Rick Perry walk away from the “Ponzi scheme” meme and transition to a more general “frank and honest” discussion? Apparently it resonated, which means that voters understand the intent of Perry’s words – that is to highlight the dire trouble Social Security is in.
Obviously what his opponents will do is try to frame that as extremely as possible – Perry wants to do away with Social Security. Democrats aren’t the only ones who play that sort of game. And that’s why York holds out the possibility, given the USA Today piece, that Perry is going to walk away from the description but still pursue the point.
The first place we’ll get to see if that’s true or not is in tonight’s debate as it is sure to be a major subject:
The controversy is sure to erupt at tonight’s Republican debate in Tampa. In Florida over the weekend, the Romney campaign distributed a flier hitting Perry hard on Social Security, saying the Texas governor is "reckless and wrong on Social Security." The headline of the flier is "Two candidates: Only one will protect what’s important to you," and the last line of the flier is "Rick Perry: How can we trust anyone who wants to kill Social Security?" After attacks like that, Perry will undoubtedly be in the mood to hit back on the debate stage.
Of course, I’ve always said that if I was ever a Republican candidate facing Mitt Romney, I’d answer every question he ever ask of me with a one word answer.