Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan will be in Connecticut for three fundraising events on Sunday, but his presence in the state may be doing more to help Democrats than GOP candidates.
Neither Republican U.S. Sen. candidate Linda McMahon, nor 5th District GOP candidate Andrew Roraback will be attending any of the Sunday fundraisers. Campaign spokesmen for both candidates cited scheduling conflicts.
But it didn’t stop their Democratic opponents from holding a conference call with reporters Friday in an attempt to draw comparisons between the state Republican candidates and the Wisconsin Rep., whose conservative budget proposal has become a target for Democrats.
“On the eve of the Republican vice presidential nominee’s visit to Connecticut, we need to really highlight the contrast of the Republican candidates’ plan to dismantle Social Security as we know it, in contrast to Democrats’ efforts to preserve it, to protect it,” State Democratic Party Executive Director Jonathan Harris told reporters.
The Ryan visit gave Democrats in both races an opportunity to further the narratives their campaigns have been pushing lately. For McMahon’s opponent, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, it was McMahon’s recently publicized comments on entitlement programs.
On Thursday, the Murphy camp began citing a Huffington Post article that quotes McMahon telling a group of Tea Party supporters that she would consider a proposal to “sunset” Social Security. His campaign later cited a WFSB report, which claimed McMahon would also be willing to consider privatizing Medicare, perhaps with a voucher program similar to one Ryan has proposed.
During the conference call, Murphy said Ryan was coming to Connecticut with a clear message to seniors.
“President Romney and Vice President Ryan would fix Medicare on the back’s of Connecticut seniors. The Romney/Ryan/McMahon Medicare privatization plan would result in seniors paying $6,000 more a year out of their pocket for Medicare,” Murphy said.
In response, the McMahon campaign points to an August AARP voter guide published in the Hartford Courant, which states that McMahon believes both programs need to be strengthened through a bipartisan effort, and would oppose any effort to privatize them.
“It’s sad that Congressman Murphy continues to misrepresent Linda McMahon’s position on Social Security and Medicare,” Todd Abrajano, McMahon‘s spokesman, said. “He’s clearly trying to distract voters from his own horrible record.”
Abrajano goes on to cite Murphy’s support of the Affordable Care Act — which reduces Medicare payments to health insurance companies and care providers by $716 billion over 10 years — and said Murphy has proposed to increase taxes to fund Social Security.
Meanwhile, former Democratic state Rep. Elizabeth Esty used the conference call to continue her efforts to tie Roraback, her opponent, to national Tea Party Republicans.
“[Roraback] would be a vote for [House Speaker] John Boehner and the Tea Party agenda, whose priorities and policies are wrong for Connecticut values. The Tea Party needs Andrew Roraback’s vote,” Esty said Friday.
Esty also questioned Roraback’s positions on entitlement programs.
“Rather than defending Social Security benefits, earned through a lifetime of hard work, my opponent has put raising the retirement age, cutting cost-of-living adjustments, and is even open to privatization for people currently under 50,” she said.
Chris Cooper, Roraback’s spokesman, said Esty was putting words in Roraback’s mouth and parroting the “hyper-partisan” tactics of national Democrats. He said Roraback has stated on the record that he supports an increase in the cost-of-living adjustment, not a cut, and is steadfastly opposed to privatizing Social Security.
“Esty also continues to stoop to the shameful tactic of scaring senior citizens to help her political campaign by distorting Andrew’s record. That kind of insensitivity is not surprising, coming from a person who told senior citizens in her hometown that if they couldn’t afford their taxes, they should ‘move out of town,’” Cooper said, referring to remarks Esty made 10 years ago.
Efforts to liken Roraback to Tea Party Republicans may become more difficult to support, considering the reaction of one Tea Party activist after Roraback demanded TV stations stop running an ad funded by national Democrats comparing him to Tea Party figures.
In an email, Bob MacGuffie of Right Principles accused Roraback of “walking out on” Tea Party supporters.
“Message to Andy Roraback: your action doesn’t just distance yourself from the Tea Party or the Ryan budget — you’ve just disparaged and walked away from your Party’s base!” MacGuffie wrote.
But for Harris, it isn’t about Roraback’s moderation as a state senator, because moderate Republicans are all but an extinct species in Washington, he said.
“That type of Republican has gone the way of the Dodo,” Harris said. “I don’t see how anyone in their right mind, especially someone who knows how legislative bodies work, can expect them to go down there and be independent voices.”
Given that national Republicans have made preventing a second Obama term their top priority, Harris said, it’s especially important that Democrats maintain control of the Senate and take back the House.
Here in Connecticut, Paul Ryan’s visit provides Democrats the opportunity to highlight the distinctions between the two parties, Harris said.
“I think [the Ryan visit] is helpful for Democrats because it illustrates the clear differences between the two parties but more importantly the Democratic and Republican candidates,” he said.
As for the conspicuous absence of both McMahon and Roraback at the Ryan events, Harris figures it’s about more than tight campaign schedules.
“They’re trying to distance themselves from an agenda they know is opposed by most people in Connecticut,” he said.
State Republican Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. sees it differently, saying more of Connecticut’s unaffiliated voters are beginning to lean Republican as Connecticut ranks near the bottom of most national economic indicators.
He said scheduling conflicts seem like a perfectly valid reason to skip a fundraiser, given that it’s almost October.
“I’m not surprised about some scheduling conflicts. It’s a busy time in the campaign season and our hard-working Republican candidates are crisscrossing the state connecting with voters,” he said.
Asked whether McMahon would have liked to attend the Ryan events if her schedule were more open, Abrajano said McMahon would likely find some other event where she would have the opportunity to talk with voters and get her message out there.
He said that when it comes to choosing which events to attend, it’s a question of which event would be most beneficial to the campaign and getting McMahon elected.
Vincent Moscardelli, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut, said it’s not surprising that the Democrats would try to use Ryan’s presence to link state candidates with the national GOP, just as it’s not surprising the Republicans would distance themselves from it.
From the beginning of the campaigns, Democrats have sought to make the race about the contrasts of the two parties, whereas Republicans have wanted to focus the races on individuals.
“The Democrats have been trying to link Roraback and McMahon to this guy long before he came to Connecticut and they will keep trying long after he leaves,” Moscardelli said.