WASHINGTON - Democratic candidates for the House nationwide are doubling down on the Medicare message that helped Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul win a seat last year - but the party's main campaign group isn't yet ready to say how much it will invest in Hochul's re-election.
At a meeting with reporters Thursday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee revealed eight campaign ads for candidates across the country.
Five of them mimicked the message that helped propel Hochul to victory: that Republicans voted to "end Medicare as we know it."
Still, when asked how much money the campaign group would commit to Hochul's tight race for re-election in New York's 27th Congressional District, the DCCC's chairman, Rep. Steve Israel, D-Hauppage, avoided any details.
"I can't tell you specifically what we're going to do there," Israel said. "But we're committed."
The Democratic group's noncommittal response stands in sharp contrast to that of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has purchased $574,000 in television time in Buffalo aimed at helping Hochul's GOP opponent, former Erie County Executive Chris Collins.
"Even her Washington allies don't want to help her campaign after she broke her promise to protect Western New York seniors," said NRCC spokeswoman Andrea K. Bozek. She was referring to the Hamburg Democrat's refusal to vote to repeal the Obama health care law, which cuts $716 billion in future payments to Medicare providers.
Collins and other Republican candidates nationwide have been echoing that message, but Israel told reporters he's not worried that the GOP message will take hold.
Asked whether the GOP ads had any impact in any of the races where they have been aired, Israel said: "Not in any poll that I've seen."
On the contrary, Israel indicated that Democrats intend to go nationwide with the message Hochul won on.
"If you're a Republican and you have to defend your vote to end Medicare in order to fund tax cuts for millionaires, you're staring at a brisk wind against you," he said.
Under Israel's theory, Collins - who has refused to say how he would vote on the budget plan that includes the GOP Medicare reforms - is facing a stiff wind, too.
Hochul "was one of the first candidates to articulate the choice - the defining choice - in this election: Medicare versus millionaires," Israel said.
"She won on that message, and we believe she'll win again on that message."
Republicans couldn't disagree more. "Steve Israel must be drinking some fancy Kool-Aid if he believes that Democrats aren't vulnerable on their record of gutting Medicare to pay for 'Obamacare,'?" Bozek said.
Bozek also cited a New York Times article that described a Democratic-backed focus group that tested the message about Republicans "ending Medicare as we know it" to fund tax breaks for the wealthy.
"The respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing," the Times report said.
Democrats and Republicans alike are abusing the truth on the Medicare issues.
Some Democratic ads are accusing the GOP of voting to "end Medicare" when, in fact, House Republicans voted to turn the program into a voucher system, where future senior citizens would get a government subsidy to buy insurance when reforms take effect in a decade.
Meanwhile, the Obama health care overhaul did not take any Medicare money from beneficiaries.