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The 'Senior Tsunami'

Don't mess with grandpa.

12:49 PM, Nov 8, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Politico's Byron Tau reports:

Voters over 65 favored Republicans last week by a 21-point margin after flirting with Democrats in the 2006 midterm elections and favoring John McCain by a relatively narrow 8-point margin in 2008. 

Concerned by changes to Medicare and compelled by a Republican Party that promised a return to America’s glory days, seniors played a crucial — and often understated — role in races across the country. They were unswayed by ubiquitous Democratic warnings about Republican changes to Social Security. And they put a series of campaigns out of reach for Democrats. 

In New Hampshire, for instance, seniors backed GOP Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte over her Democratic challenger by 33 points. In the narrow Illinois Senate contest, Republican Mark Kirk won older voters by 22 points. And In Delaware, they were the only age group to back tea party favorite Christine O’Donnell, by an 11-point margin. 

“I’ve been saying since August 2009, that there was a tsunami — in this case a senior citizen tsunami — headed towards Capitol Hill,” said Jim Martin, chairman of the 60 Plus Association, a conservative campaign group targeted toward older voters. “That tsunami came ashore.” 

Democrats tried to hold back the 'senior tsunami' by saying that Republicans would implement Paul Ryan's "Road Map" which would cut their Social Security and Medicare, but this argument wasn't persuasive for two reasons:

1. It wasn't and isn't true. Ryan's plan, which hasn't been formally endorsed by many Republicans, would only affect those 55 and younger--voters who don't even expect entitlement programs to be around when they retire. 

2. Even if Democrats could have obscured the fact that some Republicans want want to reform Medicare and Social Security only for those 55 and younger, it's difficult to persuade seniors to be more concerned about theoretical cuts Republicans might vote for than the actual cuts the Democrats just voted for. 

Ryan sells his plan as a choice between Obamacare--and rationing that will inevitably affect current beneficiaries--or a free-market reform that will only affect younger workers. "What I'm proposing is, make sure that we don't cut benefits to people in and near retirement, 55 and above," Ryan said during a debate on CNN last month with Democratic congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. "They just took $522 billion out of the Medicare fund to spend it on another government program. They are the ones who raided Medicare."

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