Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Grimes runs 1st attack ad, on Medicare, then deflects questions; AP says use of current senior is off base

Alison Lundergan Grimes started her first televised attack on Sen. Mitch McConnell today, setting off a round of back-and-forth between the campaigns. McConnell has not attacked Grimes with an ad of his own, but his allies have done plenty of that. Today the main "super PAC" supporting him started a new ad attacking her, as "part of the previously announced $4.66 million ad buy by the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition which runs through the end of August," reports Joe Arnold of Louisville's WHAS-TV. It says Grimes avoids answering questions, but she take a similar jab at McConnell in her new commercial.

The ad, "Question From Don," features retired coal miner Don Disney of Harlan County, who says, “Senator, I’m a retired coal miner. I want to know how you could’ve voted to raise my Medicare costs by six thousand dollars. How are my wife and I supposed to afford that?” Grimes and Disney sit silently for a few seconds, then she says, “I don't think he's gonna answer that.”

"McConnell cast no such vote," write Adam Beam and Calvin Woodward of The Associated Press. "The bill he supported in 2011, on which the ad's claim is based, proposed moving ahead on a plan in the House by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to privatize Medicare over time. Some analysts said that could eventually raise costs for beneficiaries. But elderly people such as Disney — already retired or approaching retirement — would see no changes. . . . Neither Grimes nor her campaign explained why they showcased a Medicare recipient who would have been exempt from the changes proposed under Ryan's plan." Joe Arnold at Louisville's WHAS-TV called the ad "misleading."

In a detailed response, the Grimes campaign cited a National Journal forecast that the bill would "increase costs for seniors before 2022," when privatization would begin; and that the vote also meant McConnell "voted to increase seniors’ drug costs" because the plan would cut nursing-home funds and "repeal protections that keep prescription drug costs down by closing the Part D loophole" (actually, the "doughnut hole" between basic and catastrophic benefits).

The vote was procedural, notes Joe Gerth of The Courier-Journal. "McConnell was one of the Republicans who voted to proceed to a vote on the bill. The motion failed," as Republicans surely knew it would. McConnell's campaign challenged the accuracy of the ad and said it "showed that Grimes has "already hit the panic button by resorting to the oldest, most cynical attack in the Obama playbook to scare Kentucky seniors."

"The ad is an attempt both to signal support from miners but also to go after McConnell on an issue where Democrats feel they have the upper hand," reports PBS NewsHour Politics. The Grimes campaign told Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader that it is spending "six figures" to air the ad statewide,and said in a news release that it is "the beginning of a series of ads that will feature Kentuckians asking critical questions of McConnell."

However, Grimes "bypassed a question Tuesday about what she would do differently" with Medicare, Jacqueline Pitts of cn|2's "Pure Politics" reports. "When asked by Pure Politics what plan she would like to see to shore up the Medicare program for future generations, Grimes moved on to another question. A reporter from the Associated Press asked the same question as Grimes was leaving but she did not respond then either. The Grimes campaign later responded to the question emailed again by Pure Politics with an excerpt from the campaign website in which Grimes says she is running to protect Medicare."

Meanwhile, the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition started a commercial that "skewers Grimes for dodging questions and muddling answers in the campaign," Arnold reports. "The ad runs through July 16 and is part of the previously announced $4.66 million ad buy by the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition which runs through the end of August."

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