Sunday, July 15, 2012 | 2 a.m.
More Line of Attack stories
Editor’s note: Line of Attack is a feature that will run each week until the Nov. 6 election. In Line of Attack, we will parse a political attack, looking at the strategy behind it, how the campaign is delivering it and what facts support or refute it. We’ll assign it a rating on the fairness meter: Legit, Eye Roll, Guffaw, Laughable or Outrageous.
Attack: Rep. Shelley Berkley is a crusader to protect Medicare, while Sen. Dean Heller wants to end the program as we know it.
Method of delivery: This message will be ubiquitous on television, radio and the Internet in ads paid for not just by the Berkley campaign, but the political non-profit Patriot Majority. Independent expenditure groups like Patriot Majority are legally prohibited from coordinating with a campaign. But that doesn’t mean their messages can’t overlap.
Strategy: Perhaps we should call this week’s installment Line of Defense. Since the House Ethics Committee launched a formal investigation into whether Berkley used her office to benefit her husband’s medical practice, Berkley is on a mission to convince voters the probe is no big deal. In her first defense ad, she works to recast the ethics allegation as proof she’s continually fighting for the little guy. She fought to protect Medicare reimbursement rates so patients would have access to care, not so her husband’s kidney care business wouldn’t lose money.
The strategy offers a nice pivot to what was sure to be a campaign issue anyway, Heller’s votes in support of the budget put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan, which dramatically changes the way Medicare would work for people under age 55.
Fairness Meter: Two things here: First, the ad says Berkley fought to prevent cuts to Medicare coverage for patients. At the heart of the ethics complaint, however, is her work to prevent cuts to reimbursement rates for doctors. Less money to doctors could mean fewer doctors to provide care to Medicare patients. Still, this line verges on an eye roll.
Second, whether the Ryan budget “kills Medicare” or “ends Medicare” or “ends Medicare as we know it” has been the subject of multiple fact-checks. Most conclude that the budget wouldn’t “kill” the program. Still, the final product would be dramatically different than the program seniors rely on today. If Berkley’s ad relied on the terminology “as we know it,” it would be easier to label the attack legit. Heller did vote for it twice and he did say he was proud of the vote. But the Ryan budget wouldn’t end Medicare altogether, so again, we have to give this one an Eye Roll.