Rick Perry's doubling down on his "Social Security is a Ponzi scheme" rhetoric during last night's debate could be beneficial for him in a Republican primary but hurtful in a general election. And while the Mitt Romney campaign was quick to pounce on the statement with its not-so-subtle "PERRY DOES NOT BELIEVE SOCIAL SECURITY SHOULD EXIST" press release, Perry seems to be sticking by the characterization. "Maybe it's time to have some provocative language in this country," he said in the debate.

At Politico, Alexander Burns points out that the "Ponzi scheme" rhetoric on Social Security didn't sink at least one Republican in a high-profile (state) race (something John McCormack noted last week). Ron Johnson defeated incumbent senator Russ Feingold in Wisconsin last year, even as Feingold criticized the political novice, Johnson, for criticizing Social Security in the same way. Burns points to this ad from Johnson, who took the attack head on:

Johnson, however, emphasized that reform was needed in order to save Social Security -- and that message didn't come through clearly when Perry focused on defending his "provocative rhetoric." Perry is probably right that voters, even general election voters, want provocative honesty from their politicians, but even many Republican primary voters aren't looking to end Social Security or Medicare. As McCormack noted, it's an argument Perry will have to hone.

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