Ron Johnson Called Social Security a Ponzi Scheme—and Won

While Mitt Romney and his aides argued last night that Texas Gov. Rick Perry would be a poor fit for a general election contest thanks to his argument that Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme" based on a "mountrous lie," Erick Erickson of RedState.com points out that there's actually a precedent for a successful Republican candidate who says just that: tea party-backed Republican Senator Ron Johnson.

In this 2010 campaign video, Johnson says:

Guess what's coming in Russ Feingold's negative campaign? He's going to tell you I said Washington treats Social Security like a Ponzi scheme. You know what? I did say that -- 'cause it's true. Russ Feingold and politicians of both parties raided the Social Security trust fund of trillions and left seniors an IOU. They spent the money. It's gone. I'll fight to keep every nickel of Social Security for retirees, and I respect you enough to tell you the truth.

Of course, Johnson -- who beat the incumbent Feingold 52 to 47 percent -- was running in Wisconsin, not in states like Florida. And as author Michael Cohen pointed out last night, President Obama could in 2012 lose the states of Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado and Ohio and still win reelection if he can pick up Florida.

Still, as much as Social Security is the third rail of American politics, were Perry to become the GOP nominee and chose someone like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) as his running mate, it would likely complicate the picture and negate some of the damage Democrats are hoping his Social Security stance will do to his support among seniors.

Presented by

Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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