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Nobody has leaked us the Republican or Democratic playbooks (at least not yet), but after fact-checking nearly 200 ads from around the country over the past few months, we feel like we could write the books ourselves.
Whether we're checking ads in Oregon or Wisconsin or Florida, we keep hearing the same lines about Social Security, Medicare and "career politicians.” (We also keep hearing a lot of ominous music and seeing a lot of grainy, unflattering photos of Nancy Pelosi.)
Here's a look at some of the lines we've heard the most and a brief explanation of how the ads have fared on our Truth-O-Meter.
"Privatizing Social Security”
Wisconsin: "When we should be fighting to protect Social Security, Sean Duffy backed a plan to privatize it."
Oregon: "My opponent apparently still believes in the same old direction that George Bush had before, which is to privatize Social Security.”
Colorado: "Buck wants to privatize Social Security.”
Minnesota: "She wants to privatize Social Security and replace Medicare with some kind of voucher system that won't even cover the full cost of medical care or prescriptions."
President Obama: "Some Republican leaders in Congress” are "pushing to make privatizing Social Security a key part of their legislative agenda if they win a majority in Congress this fall."
This has been a popular line for many Democrats, who have grabbed any speck of evidence to suggest that their Republican opponents support a plan to set up personal accounts in Social Security. By using this line, Democrats are trying to repeat the success they had in 2005, when they defeated President George W. Bush's Social Security overhaul.
But the tricky part this year is that Republicans have been careful with their words and have not fully supported a privatization plan. So we've rated many of these claims Barely True or Half True.
Eeek! Career politicians!
Florida: "When career politician Daniel Webster became speaker of the House, he wasted $32,000 of our money on a spiral staircase for his office.”
Rhode Island: "Mr. Caprio is a career politician who has never worked in the private sector.”
Georgia: "Rob Teilhet. Just another career politician."
Georgia: Secretary of State Brian Kemp is a "career politician."
Wisconsin: "Politician Reid Ribble . . . wants to phase out Social Security, forcing Wisconsin seniors to fend for themselves."
With polls showing Congress less popular than even banks or HMOs, candidates from both parties have been trying to portray themselves as outsiders who will reform the system. That's always been a popular tactic. What's different this year is the venom candidates are using in describing their opponents as "career politicians.”
But the claim doesn't always fit because in some cases, the targets of the attacks actually have not been politicians for very long. Reid Ribble, the Wisconsin candidate in one of those clips, actually has never sought elected office before.
Oregon: "The Kurt Schrader record. $500 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicare Advantage."
California: "Barbara Boxer voted to cut spending on Medicare benefits by $500 billion.”
Florida: Allen Boyd "voted for Nancy Pelosi's health care bill, which will cut $500 billion from Medicare.”
Pennsylvania: Joe Sestak "voted to gut Medicare, slashing benefits for Pennsylvania seniors.”
While Democrats have tried to scare seniors with inflated claims about "privatizing Social Security,” the Republican scare tactic has been to blame Democrats for cutting Medicare.
The Republicans are referring to the Democrats' votes on the health care plan, which was largely paid for through cuts in future Medicare spending. But we've usually rated the Republican claims Barely True because the core benefits of Medicare are not being cut.
Ants, a blueberry farm and Christmas
New Hampshire: "Hodes voted for the pork-filled stimulus bill -- $1.9 million to study ants in Africa.”
Oregon: Says Ron Wyden spent $2 million "to study exotic ants."
Nevada: Harry Reid "voted to use taxpayer dollars to pay for Viagra for convicted child molesters and sex offenders."
New Mexico: Diane Denish "spent federal stimulus funds on campaign Christmas cards."
Arizona: J.D. Hayworth supported "$220,000 to renovate a Maine Blueberry farm" and "$5.8 million for a Vermont snowmobile trail."
Republicans love to point out government spending that they consider wasteful, so we've heard lots of attacks against Democrats for projects that sound frivolous. In some cases, such as the ants, the line is so good that it's been used against several different Democrats in different parts of the country. It's also been used in primaries against other Republicans.
But we've found the claims are often exaggerated because the target of the attacks didn't actually vote for the ant study; they simply supported the $787 billion economic stimulus, which in turn included money for scientific research through various organizations, and one of them dedicated money to the ant study.
Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
Illinois: "Since Debbie Halvorson has been in politics, Illinois has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs."
Wisconsin: "unfair trade deals have resulted in the loss of over 64,000 jobs in Wisconsin.”
Ohio: "Zack Space voted for Nancy Pelosi's budgets and debt, for job-killing energy taxes, and for her wasteful stimulus. And we still lost more than 2.5 million jobs.”
Ohio: "Under Lee Fisher Ohio has lost nearly 400,000 jobs."
Ohio: "Ohio lost 400,000 jobs” on Strickland's watch.
Ohio: "Since the $800 billion stimulus passed, Ohio"s lost over 100,000 more jobs."
With the economy still sputtering, we've heard lots of claims from Republicans about jobs that have been lost since Democrats have been in office.
Never mind the complex economic forces that result in job losses, the Republican ads blame the Democratic candidates. The ads usually get the numbers right, but we've typically rated these claims Half True because economists told us it's not completely accurate to blame one politician for a state's economic predicament.
See Truth-O-Meter items.