The Spectacle Blog

Mediscare Losing Its Potency?

By on 9.15.11 | 4:40PM

The Wall Street Journal editorial page suggests that the Republican victories in the Nevada and New York special elections show that Democrats' attacks on the Paul Ryan Medicare reform plan may not be as powerful a tool as the Dems had thought: 

Mr. Amodei [the GOP candidate in the House special election in Nevada] showed that Republicans can withstand these entitlement attacks if they fight back in a tenacious, honest and reassuring fashion. The former Silver State legislator put his mother on the air to talk about reforming Medicare, not ending it. He also went on offense against Mrs. Marshall by tying her to ObamaCare and the President's economic policies, a particular concern in Nevada where joblessness is the highest in the nation at 12.9%.

The result: The Republican won in a rout, 58% to 36%, and the Democrat did poorly around usually competitive Reno.

Mediscare also failed to save Democrats in the ninth district of New York, which until recently was represented by Anthony Weiner of Twitter fame. Registered voters tilt toward Democrats three to one in the seat, which has been held by Democrats since 1923, and Mr. Obama won by 11 points with 55% of the vote. Yet Republican Bob Turner-a retired television executive who lost to Mr. Weiner in 2008 by 20 points-carried the district this time, 54% to 46%.

Yes, Democratic assemblyman David Weprin was a lousy candidate-though he was hand-picked by the party machine-and, yes, opposition to the Obama Administration's Israel policy probably played a role in this heavily Jewish district. Mr. Turner also distanced himself from what he called Medicare "privatization," but Mr. Weprin relentlessly attacked him for it anyway.

Avik Roy argues that the reason Amodei was successful in defending himself from the Mediscare attacks was that he pointed out that the Democrats also have a plan to cut Medicare: 

 What's new about the Medicare debate in 2011 is that both sides have plans to trimMedicare spending. Obamacare does it by cutting payments to doctors and hospitals, and by transferring power to government technocrats. The Ryan plan does it by giving seniors more control over their own health spending.

This, then, is the choice facing American voters: whether to accept the stealth rationing of today, in which doctors can no longer afford to see Medicare patients; the overt rationing of Obamacare's acolytes, in which 15 individuals will decide the fates of one-sixth to one-fifth of the American population; or a Ryan-like system where individual retirees choose the plans and benefits that best fit their needs. Each of these systems purports to reduce Medicare spending: the question is who gets to make the decisions.

Amodei's victory suggests that voters respond well to this approach.

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