WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon is campaigning on a message that Washington must address the mounting debt and growing deficit. But she's refusing to talk specifics about entitlement programs such as Social Security or Medicare while seeking the seat Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd is vacating.
"We need to strengthen our entitlement programs. There's no question about that. That has to be done outside the political arena. We need to do that in the legislative arena," the former WWE executive said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We need to have bipartisan debate."
She said that any time spent talking about specifics quickly becomes a "political football" that opponents exploit, including her Democratic rival for the Senate seat, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
"We have to keep the contracts and the promises we've made to our seniors and make sure we're good on those," McMahon said on the one-year anniversary of declaring her candidacy. "These programs are moving toward insolvency, so we've got to address them in the legislative arena."
When asked about President Barack Obama's bipartisan deficit commission, which is due to make nonbinding recommendations this year how to strengthen the nation's fiscal health, she said Washington shouldn't be required to implement their ideas.
"We've got some smart people looking at different issues," McMahon said. "I don't think you take anything at wholesale value. That's why I'm saying that you need have open debate and consideration for those really serious subjects that we have to deal with."
Obama urged Congress to create a stronger commission, whose recommendations would be binding, but lawmakers balked over fears they might be forced to cut Social Security or other entitlement programs. Instead, he appointed a group whose recommendations do not carry any requirements lawmakers act.
McMahon is turning to a Democratic president to back up her statement that now is not the time to raise taxes.
In a 1963 film clip, President John F. Kennedy looks into the camera and tells the nation that every dollar that isn't taxed helps create a job. McMahon, whose campaign is built on promises of tax cuts, released an ad Thursday with grainy clips and claims the good idea then remains a good idea now.
McMahon is narrowing the gap with Blumenthal. She has spent heavily on mail and television advertising, slicing into Blumenthal's popularity built over four decades in state politics.
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