Democratic super PAC ads focus on Social Security in final stretch

Spending aims at Republican candidates in Arizona, North Carolina

New ads focused on Social Security target Rep. Ted Budd, the Republican Senate nominee in North Carolina, who spoke Oct. 14 at the Pamlico County GOP Turkey Dinner in Grantsboro, N.C. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
New ads focused on Social Security target Rep. Ted Budd, the Republican Senate nominee in North Carolina, who spoke Oct. 14 at the Pamlico County GOP Turkey Dinner in Grantsboro, N.C. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted October 25, 2022 at 7:30am

In the closing weeks of an election increasingly dominated by economic issues, the Senate Democrats’ top super PAC is focusing on Social Security in new ad buys worth at least $1 million each aimed at Republicans in Arizona and North Carolina.  

In the Arizona cut, the narrator asks what nominee Blake Masters’ plan is “while we’re struggling just to stay afloat.”

“Maybe we should privatize Social Security, right?” Masters says in a grainy video. “We’ve got to cut the knot at some point.”

The ad running in North Carolina notes votes Rep. Ted Budd, the GOP Senate nominee, took in the House that would have made cuts to Medicare and Social Security, including voting to raise the retirement age. The ad from Senate Majority PAC, which has ties to Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, also references Budd’s family business and abortion rights, issues that SMP has hit in earlier ads. 

Both ads are set to air statewide on cable and broadcast stations, SMP told CQ Roll Call.

“While Democrats delivered on protecting Medicare and cutting prescription drug costs for older Americans with the Inflation Reduction Act, Republicans have made it crystal clear that they would put seniors’ hard-earned benefits on the chopping block if they take control,” JB Poersch, president of Senate Majority PAC, said in a statement. 

Masters is challenging Sen. Mark Kelly, who won an unexpired term in 2020 by 2 percentage points and was an early GOP target this year. Outside groups have already spent more than $84 million supporting or attacking the two candidates, according to OpenSecrets.  

Budd is seeking the seat being vacated by the retirement of GOP Sen. Richard Burr, and won the Republican nomination after getting former President Donald Trump’s endorsement and defeating several challengers, including former Gov. Pat McCrory. Budd faces Democrat Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court who has kept the race tight all year. Outside spending there has totaled more than $72.9 million already.

A spokeswoman for Budd's campaign, Samantha Cotten, said in an email the Democrats were "lighting their money on fire" just as they did in losing Senate races in North Carolina in 2014, 2016 and 2020.

"Ted does not support cutting Medicare and Social Security for seniors," Cotten said. "This is just another desperate attempt by Cheri Beasley and her allies to distract from her embrace of Joe Biden's policies that have caused skyrocketing inflation, rising violent crime, and a crisis at our Southern border."

Another ad focused on Social Security was released Monday by the House Majority Fund, a Democratic super PAC with ties to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It takes aim at Karoline Leavitt, the Republican running against Rep. Chris Pappas in New Hampshire’s 1st District, for saying she would be interested in legislation that would privatize Social Security.

Focusing on Social Security and Medicare isn’t new for Democrats. Masters first drew fire during the summer for the comments referenced in the new ad, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ran an ad last month that included the same recording. 

But the choice of the issue with two weeks left until Election Day indicates it might be seen as a rebuttal for Republicans’ heavy focus on blaming President Joe Biden and Democrats who control Congress for high inflation and gas prices.

Speaking Monday at Democratic National Committee headquarters, Biden said that Democrats would not cut the programs, considered a third rail in politics. 

"Look, folks, Democrats are going to protect Social Security and Medicare, Republicans have been very clear, they've stated boldly that they want to cut Social Security and Medicare, and to the point that they'll shut down the government they say and send the nation into default, which raises prices for everyone, if we do not cut Social Security and Medicare,” Biden said. 

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.