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2014 Campaign

Karl Rove Is Attacking Democrats From the Left


Photograph by Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo


Crossroads GPS, the conservative nonprofit co-founded by Karl Rove, is attacking Democrats. The twist? It’s coming from the left.

A new Crossroads ad against incumbent North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat, warns: “Hagan is a big believer in a controversial plan that raises the retirement age, reduces the home mortgage deduction, and increases out-of-pocket Medicare costs.” (Crossroads is devoting at least $1.12 million to circulate the ad.) The ad cites a 2013 article in which Hagan, a first-term senator, said she was “a big believer in what Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson did on their fiscal commission.”

As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted, the Hagan ad follows a separate Crossroads ad, announced by Karl Rove on Aug. 19, that slammed a fellow Democrat, Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, as an advocate of entitlement cuts. “It’s troubling that Senator Mark Pryor said we should overhaul Social Security and Medicare,” says that ad, which Rove said would be backed by $710,000. The ad tells voters that Pryor “suggested raising the retirement age,” and that his vote for Obamacare “will cut Medicare Advantage benefits for our seniors.”

Such attacks aren’t entirely new. Accusing Democrats of raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare was a mainstay of Republican messaging in the 2012 campaign. Republican officials told Reuters in March to expect campaign attacks on proposed limits on Medicare Part D. Last year, Oregon Congressman and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden called Obama’s budget proposal “kind of a shocking attack on seniors, ” saying the “chained CPI” cut to the growth of Social Security benefits was “trying to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, and I just think it’s not the right way to go.”

While Rove’s attacks have inspired conservative consternation, the strategy is easy to understand: Cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits is more popular with politicians and pundits than it is with Americans at large—red state voters included.

Eidelson is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington.

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