- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2014

The battle over Medicare will rumble across West Virginia’s U.S. Senate race Monday, as the two candidates deploy Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Paul Ryan to duke it out on their behalf.

Democrat Natalie Tennant called in Ms. Warren, the Massachusetts senator who has emerged as one of the party’s brightest liberal stars, to jump-start her long-shot campaign for an open Senate seat in the Republican-leaning state.

Her GOP rival, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, brought in Mr. Ryan, the House budget chairman and 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee whose blueprint to transition Medicare into a voucher-style program made him a favorite target for liberal attacks.

The contrast between the two campaigns could not be more striking.

Ms. Warren arrives on the campaign trail as one of the most outspoken defenders of Medicare and other cash-strapped entitlement programs. She has even proposed expanding Social Security to cover more people and provide more benefits.

The jabs started before Mr. Ryan set foot in the Mountain State.

SEE ALSO: CARSON: Health savings accounts far better than Obamacare

“Campaigning with the architect of plans to end Medicare as we know it proves Congresswoman Capito has no shame in trampling West Virginia seniors to line her own bank account,” Tennant campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Donohue said when Mr. Ryan’s visit was announced last week.

The Capito campaign fired back, noting that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office determined that the Ryan plan would save money for seniors and the government while not affecting current or soon-to-be retirees.

Elizabeth Warren is anti-coal, anti-gun, anti-business and pro-Obamacare. Everything she stands for is completely at odds with the West Virginia values Natalie Tennant claims to put first,” said Capito campaign spokeswoman Amy Graham. “Once again, Natalie Tennant’s actions are speaking louder than her empty campaign rhetoric.”

The open seat of retiring Democratic Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV in West Virginia is expected to be a win for Republicans as the party strives to pick up the net gain of six seats needed to size control of the upper chamber.

But Democrats locked in tough red-state races, of which they need to win some to retain majority control of the U.S. Senate, have frequently resorted to attacking Republicans for backing Mr. Ryan’s plan, which would transition Medicare into a premium support program similar to the popular Medicare Advantage option for current workers under age 55.

The Medicare issue flared up in Kentucky, where Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes ran a TV ad that accused incumbent Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of backing the plan, which the ad said would raise seniors’ Medicare costs by $6,000, a figure widely discredited by fact-checking organizations.

Mr. McConnell and other Republicans are counterpunching with charges that Democrats slashed benefits for seniors with Obamacare’s $700 billion cut to Medicare.

That charge also is disputed by watchdog groups, such as FactCheck.org, which points out that the health care law reduces the growth of spending on Medicare over a decade, mostly by reducing payments to hospitals and other nonphysician providers. And the same $700 billion in “cuts” is part of Mr. Ryan’s budget plan.

Democrats and Republicans have been taking these same Medicare potshots at each other for years.

President Obama and his Democratic allies used Medicare, including ads showing old people in wheelchairs being pushed off a cliff, to drive senior citizens away from Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and running mate Mr. Ryan in 2012.

Democrats are convinced it is still a winning message.

“It’s already been a huge liability for Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Bill Cassidy in Louisiana and Thom Tillis in North Carolina, and yes, it will hurt Shelley Moore Capito as well,” said Justin Barasky, national press secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, naming some of the most hard-to-beat GOP challengers on the field.

Mr. Romney carried all those states in 2012 despite relentless attacks about Medicare and Social Security.

In West Virginia, where Mrs. Capito leads by 10 points in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls, the 2012 Romney-Ryan ticket won every county and took the state by a nearly 27 percent margin.

“Few states have been hit harder by President Obama’s devastating policies than West Virginia, but Shelley Moore Capito has been right there on the front lines fighting back,” Mr. Ryan said as he headed back to the campaign trail. “She is dedicated to her state and to the people she represents, and I can tell you no one will fight harder for West Virginia in the Senate than Shelley Moore Capito.”



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