Sharron Angle's Social Security Swerve

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On the eve of the 75th anniversary of Social Security, the government program is being politicized in congressional races all over the country.

In Nevada, Sen. Harry Reid has focused much of his well-funded attack on Republican challenger Sharron Angle on her previously voiced desire to abolish and/or privatize Social Security for younger generations. In an ad released in June, Reid replayed a video clip of Angle calling for phasing out Social Security and Medicare.

Reporters fixated on these claims as well, with Nevada journalist Jon Ralston grilling her on the topic when she came on his interview show "Face to Face" in June. Ralston replayed a radio clip of Angle in May plugging the privatization of Social Security followed by another clip from a month later in which she called for the "salvation" of Social Security and the need to "keep the money in the lockbox." Angle explained the dissonance between the two positions with ambiguous remarks about "personalizing" the program -- seemingly giving citizens the option of privatized Social Security.

Now, she's released a new ad in which she frames herself as the savior of Social Security and Reid as its attacker:





Speaking to a small group of voters, Angle claims that Reid needs Social Security funds "for his own pet projects" and plans to violate the nation's "contract with our seniors."

"I'd like to save Social Security," Angle says, "by locking the lockbox, putting the money back into the trust fund so the government can no longer raid our retirement."

Angle's pivot on Social Security is perhaps a response to her dropping poll numbers and fear that Reid's attacks on her credibility and extreme views have been working.

Outside of Nevada, Democrats are latching onto comments like these from various GOP candidates as a way to drum up fear that Republicans are planning on doing away with Social Security. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has launched an interactive map of states in which Republican Senate candidates have made statements threatening the program. The Alliance for Retired Americans is holding events across the country tomorrow commemorating Social Security and highlighting conservative attempts to weaken or eliminate it.

Candidates issue complex statements on the government program, but select sound bytes are replayed in ads targeting older voters. This demographic is key in midterm races, which generally skew to lower youth turnout and reliable senior participation.
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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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