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Social Security heats up as midterm issue

1. Former Nevada Assemblywoman Sharron Angle is up with a new television ad pledging to "save" Social Security and accusing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) of "raiding" the retirement trust fund.

"We have a contract with our seniors who have put into Social Security in good faith," Angle says in the ad. "I'd like to save Social Security by locking the lock box, putting the money back into the trust fund so the government can no longer raid our retirement."

Angle's ad comes after weeks of taking on water on the issue as Reid has repeatedly slammed her for past comments on Social Security. One Reid ad featured Angle saying "we need to phase Medicare and Social Security out."

Jarrod Agen, communications director for Angle, painted the ad as part of a "process of laying out the clear choices in this race" but the campaign's decision to re-address her position on Social Security suggests Reid's attacks have hurt her.

"The fact of the matter is that she has been very clear for a long time that she opposes Social Security and wants to kill it," Reid adviser Jon Summers said. "While she is trying to rewrite history by saying that's not what she said, there is a much longer record of her previous position."

The back and forth on the issue in Nevada is a microcosm of what Democrats hope will be a broader debate in races around the country about what to do next on Social Security.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary, which is tomorrow, of Social Security becoming law, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has released a scorecard documenting 13 Republican Senate candidates who have expressed support for some form of privatization of the retirement system.

The Democratic National Committee is launching a coordinated effort of their own to put Republicans on the spot about whether Social Security should be privatized -- including a new web video and a conference call with DNC Chairman Tim Kaine and James Roosevelt, the grandson of President Franklin Roosevelt who signed the measure into law.

Social Security is always a potent political issue but especially so in midterm elections where older voters -- to whom this issue is of critical importance -- comprise a larger segment of the overall electorate. (Older voters always vote.)

President George W. Bush's failure to pass a reform of the system played a role -- how much of one can be debated -- in the Democratic takeover of the House and Senate in 2006 and Democrats are hoping it will mitigate their expected losses in this midterm.

It may be the party's best (last?) hope to change the course of an election that is looking increasingly grim for them.

2. For the first time in months, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is leading his free-spending rival, businessman Rick Scott, in Florida's Republican gubernatorial primary, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll.

The survey shows McCollum leading Scott 34 percent to 30 percent among likely Republican voters ahead of the Aug. 24 primary.

While the poll holds bad news for Scott in the primary, it's devastating for his prospects in the general as he trails state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D) 40 percent to 24 percent in a potential November match-up, with Bud Chiles, the son of former Gov. Lawton Chiles (D), taking 17 percent.

If McCollum is the nominee instead of Scott, Sink takes 37 percent and McCollum garners 35 percent with Chiles at 13 percent.

A Mason-Dixon poll released last week showed Scott ahead of McCollum 37 percent to 31 percent in the Republican primary.

The drop in Scott's support could be due to a number of factors but the increased focus on the fraud scandal surrounding his former company, Columbia/HCA, almost certainly has something to do with it.

President Obama visits the Sunshine State next week to raise money for Sink and the Florida Democratic Party.

3. Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) is up with her first TV ad against Rep. Roy Blunt (R) in the race for the seat of retiring Sen. Kit Bond (R).

The ad takes aim at Blunt for supporting the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2008. "1999: Roy Blunt votes to deregulate Wall Street, eliminating safeguards in place since the Depression," the ad's narrator says. "Nine years later, as the economy collapses, Roy Blunt takes charge of passing the $700 billion Wall Street bailout."

The 30-second spot closes with a dig at Blunt's $1.6 million in Wall Street contributions, calling him "the very worst of Washington."

It's certainly not the first time TARP has come up in a race this cycle -- see >Bennett, Bob for just one example of how devastating it can be to a candidate's campaign -- and it's not likely to be the last.

But Carnahan's hammering of Blunt on TARP, which President Obama also voted for as a senator, is an interesting example of a Democratic candidate using it against a Republican rival. Most often, the vote has been an issue for Republicans facing primary challenges from their party's right.

In this case, Carnahan is capitalizing on the fact that having never held federal office she has never had to cast votes on some of the more controversial bills in recent years.

A July Mason-Dixon poll showed Blunt leading Carnahan 48 percent to 42 percent among registered voters, with 10 percent undecided.

Democrats view Missouri as one of their best pickup opportunities, citing Carnahan's candidate quality and the baggage Blunt carries from his time in Republican leadership. But, Missouri was the lone swing state in 2008 to go for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) -- suggesting a considerable conservative base that Blunt will rely on.

4. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (R) has overtaken California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in a poll conducted by Survey USA.

Forty-seven percent of likely voters now back Fiorina compared to 42 percent who support Boxer.

The key to Fiorina's success in the survey appears to be independents -- she wins them by 17 points over Boxer. (Worth noting: a whopping 20 percent of those independents remain undecided, meaning that the numbers could swing back in Boxer's favor if she's able to woo them successfully.)

Fiorina also takes 87 percent of Republicans, while Boxer wins the votes of roughly three-quarters (73 percent) of Democrats -- suggesting the incumbent has room to grow if she can consolidate support within her own party.

The Post rates the California Senate race as a toss up.

Meanwhile, in the gubernatorial race, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R) is in a dead heat with state Attorney General Jerry Brown (D). Here, too, independents are leaning Republican; Whitman takes them by 16 percent over Brown.

That Democratic candidates are in serious races in California is not a good sign for the party nationally, which is stretched thin as they battle on an expanded playing field this cycle.

5. We've got two live chats scheduled for today!

First, at 10:30 a.m., we reveal the winner of our "Worst Week in Washington" competition -- via video!

Then, thirty minutes later (that's 11 a.m. for you non-math majors out there) we are back with the official "Live Fix" chat where we field questions about any and everything -- literally. Sidenote: We now chat three times a week(!): Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11 a.m.

What better way to spend a Friday morning than with the Fix? See you there!

With Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  |  August 13, 2010; 8:24 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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Next: President Obama, the 50 percent mark and the battle for the House

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