Last week, Fired Up Missouri found Roy Blunt on conservative talk radio claiming that it would have been best if the federal government had never created Medicare or Medicaid. (Incidentally, the interview was with Mike Ferguson, whose interview with Senator McCaskill contained some bombshells about her views on cap and trade.)
There’s still an election to hold (two elections, if any serious challenger jumps in the primary) but if history is any guide, this was supposed to be yet another close race, and you just can’t dig a giant hole for yourself and expect to win. Let me put on my Nate Silver hat and show you just how stark the numbers are.
There’s no exit poll data for 2002, but in the last Senate election in 2006, Claire McCaskill eked out a 49,000 vote win over incumbent Talent. In that race, Talent actually won voters 65 and over by a margin of 50%-47%. At 17% of the electorate, and with such close margins among the overall electorate, it would have been only a matter of pushing it to a 60-40 split to swing the election the other way.
Missouri’s results in the 2008 presidential election give us an even more dramatic example of how the race could flip. McCain finished with a lead of less than 4,000 votes. But he carried voters over 65 by 56% to 43%, making McCain’s lead among senior voters approximately 49,350. If Obama were able to constantly run clips of McCain saying he didn’t think Medicare was a good idea, it’s not hard to imagine McCain losing his lead among seniors, evaporating his slender lead in the total electorate.
As for the salience of Medicare as an issue for seniors, well, in at least one poll, Social Security, another stalwart government program mainly benefitting seniors, outpolled homeland security in Missouri in 2002! And while Medicare isn’t heavily polled nowadays, polling surrounding the 2003 Medicare expansion to cover prescription drugs for seniors indicated a higher level of support by seniors for a stronger Medicare and more anxiety by seniors that the federal government would not go far enough.
I would love for Blunt to try to prove us all wrong by openly running against Medicare. But alas, he’s already tried to claim that his remarks were taken out of context, and on Twitter, he tried to play the victim:
Expect to see false ads from Robin Carnahan and her allies about cutting government programs.
3:56 PM Jul 10th from mobile web
Well, I fully expect to see Robin Carnahan ads attacking Blunt with the audio taken straight from that interview, but just because they’re attacking Blunt doesn’t make them false. A steady drumbeat of Blunt describing, in his own words, his opposition to Medicare might as well be the sound of hammers nailing together a pine box for his political career.