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Feingold v. Johnson on Social Security

Has Ron Johnson run the best ad campaign of 2010?

4:49 PM, Oct 13, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Wisconsin's junior Democratic senator Russ Feingold is out with a new ad attacking his Republican opponent Ron Johnson for keeping "privatization" of Social Security for "some" voters on the table. Feingold's position? In the ad, he literally takes everything off the table and promises not to "turn any part of Social Security over to Wall Street."

Johnson preemptively responded to Feingold one month ago in an ad that ought to be titled: Heck yes I called Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme'--and I'll say it to your face.

Rather than taking the Sharron Angle tack of "I never said that," Johnson owns up to calling Social Security a "Ponzi scheme"--not exactly the most damaging admission considering the fact that people don't know what a Ponzi scheme is--and then pivots to say that he'll fight to "keep every nickel of Social Security for retirees." That's true. Johnson is committed to keeping benefits for current retirees. He's open to reforms for those years from retirement, but he hasn't specifically signed on to all of the reforms Paul Ryan calls for in his fiscal "Roadmap" (speaking of which, see Ryan's latest "Social Security & The Draconian Do-Nothing Plan").

At any rate, Johnson's ad seems like a pretty effective pre-buttal. In fact, Johnson may have run the best ad campaign of 2010. He earned high praise from the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza for this ad, in which Johnson explains with a whiteboard and a marker that while there are 57 lawyers in the Senate, he'd be the only manufacturer. Johnson also cut a fairly humorous, quintessentially Wisconsinite, soft-focus ad introducing his family. The ads are effective because Johnson is personable and direct, much as he is in real life.

Again, rather than running from the use of the phrase "creative destruction" after being attacked by Feingold, Johnson bluntly explained that the phrase is a "plain economic term":

Feingold also reissued a line of attack that's currently running prominently in one of his television ads — taking aim at Johnson's characterization of the volatile churns in the economy as "creative destruction."

"You know what he calls it, he calls those trade agreements and what they did to us, creative destruction. Well it's the creative destruction of Wisconsin families, including the families of tea partiers," Feingold said.

In an interview with POLITICO earlier this week in Stevens Point, Wis., Johnson stood by his use of that language as "a plain economic term."

"It describes what happens in this country. Every year, when the economy's really moving along, we create about 17 million jobs and a about 15 million jobs are lost, for a net gain of 2 million jobs. That's just what happens in any kind of growing economy, we create new products and those new products replace other ones," said Johnson, who gave up a shot at an MBA to start his own plastics manufacturing company in Oshkosh.

See also this pithy response from Johnson during a debate with Feingold:

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