Democrats Facing Tough Fight for Seniors' Votes

Sunday, 06 Apr 2014 06:55 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Senior citizens have been the Republican Party's most reliable voting bloc during midterm elections, and this year, Democrats face losing even more older voters to the GOP than ever.

“Democrats have to perform better with seniors than they did in 2010," Doug Thornell, a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, told The Hill. "They got shellacked with seniors in 2010. I don’t think the goal here is to win, but I definitely think the goal is to narrow the gap."

In 2010, Democrats lost voters aged 65 and older by 21 points in 2010 and by 12 points in the 2012 presidential race. And according to a recent Gallup Poll, 48 percent of seniors now consider themselves to be Republicans.

Seniors are particularly concerned over proposed plans to cut the Medicare Advantage program next year. The Obama administration is expected to finalize the plans to cut the program on Monday.

Republicans say the program is a valid private alternative to Medicare, as it allows seniors to enroll in plans offered by private insurers, who are then directly paid by the federal government.

Until now, Democrats have complained that the plan receives a disportionate amount of money compared to the Medicare program, and Obamacare was partially funded through $200 billion in cuts over 10 years.

But some of the party's most vulnerable senators seeking re-election, including Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, have changed their minds on the Medicare Advantage cuts, and have joined forces as part of a group of 19 Democrats and 21 Republicans to sign a letter urging Medicare Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to protect the Medicare plan.

The cuts could be particularly hard for Democrats in the states that have higher-than-average enrollments in Medicare Advantage, including New York, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, and California.

And Republicans are already gearing their efforts toward seniors concerning the cuts. American Action Network, a major GOP group, has launched a $1 million campaign to target nine vulnerable Democratic lawmakers over the cuts.

Andrea Bozek, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said even more attacks will come after the cuts are announced Monday.
"Whatever that number is, you will see [it] in TV ads across the country, especially during a midterm cycle,” she said.

But Democrats say that Republican Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's budget will allow them to fight back on Medicare, as it contains his plan to privatize Medicare through a premium support system that Democrats claim "ends Medicare as we know it."

Democrats are also hoping to make a more broad appeal to seniors through pointing out advantages they will enjoy under Obamacare.

"Democrats are committed to making sure that our healthcare system works, and we will work to improve the Affordable Care Act — not repealing it and taking us back to the days when insurance companies had free rein to raise rates and deny coverage,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Josh Schwerin.

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