Perry’s Social Security Talk Makes Florida GOP Nervous

It may be resonating with some elements of the Tea Party movement, but Rick Perry’s rhetoric has Florida Republicans concerned:

ORLANDO -Florida Republicans want the GOP presidential field to tread lightly on the subjects of Social Security and Medicare. Very, very lightly.

Even in senior-heavy Florida, there is a willingness this cycle to talk about finally reforming entitlement programs. But there are also growing worries about the way that debate is taking shape in the 2012 elections-and fears it could have devastating consequences for Republicans in a battleground state where roughly one in five residents are over age 65.

More than the state’s 29 electoral votes are at stake: There’s also a U.S. Senate seat and a handful of House districts that could determine the balance of power at every level of Washington.

“There is a way to talk about Social Security reform without scaring seniors and while demonstrating to younger workers that you’re going to have a modern system that’s going to be there for them,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “We haven’t heard it yet.”

Putnam, a former Republican congressman, expressed concern about Rick Perry’s criticism about the creation of Social Security in his book. He also mentioned Florida straw poll winner Herman Cain’s repeated references to switching over to the “Chilean model” of entitlement programs.

“Claiming that Social Security is unconstitutional is a way bigger problem than saying it’s a Ponzi scheme,” Putnam said. “And I don’t think the average American aspires to the Chilean standard of living.”


Adam Hasner, a former Florida House majority leader who is also challenging Nelson, said neither of his party’s top presidential candidates had struck the right chord on entitlements – or offered the kind of policy solutions that would give voters faith in the GOP.

“They’re both right and they’re both wrong,” Hasner said of Perry and Romney. “Can you get people’s attention to show them that something’s wrong by calling [Social Security] a Ponzi scheme? Yes, but then you have to share with them what your answer is.”

As I’ve said before, that was Perry’s biggest mistake at the beginning. Rather than doubling down on the “Ponzi Scheme” and “unconstitutional” rhetoric, he should have been talking about what his solutions to the problem were. You don’t have to get into a policy paper length discussion, but you do at least need to have some kind of a broad outline. Otherwise, it’s very easy for your opponents to just paint you as a bomb thrower, which is exactly what has happened.



FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, Social Security, Tea Party, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Sam says:

    Herman Cain is looking more and more like one that should be listened to closer.

    Non-politician, successful business man, has some experience in the FED.

    Decent tax structure plan, 9-9-9.

    And I like that he is the only one to not personally attack any other candidates. He lays out his ideas and plans and lets the voter decide which may be the better option.

  2. Hey Norm says:

    9-9-9 upside down is 6-6-6.
    Not that it means anything…I’m just sayin’…

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Perry’s problem is that he does not realize that even tho it his party’s goal too eliminate those 2 programs, he is not supposed to actually talk about it.

  4. Sam says:

    @Hey Norm:

    Any comment on the plan?

    Do you or anyone you like have a plan?

  5. Herb says:

    @Sam: Adam Putnam pretty much summed up my comment on Cain’s plan: “I don’t think the average American aspires to the Chilean standard of living.”

  6. Sam says:


    Too bad that overly simplifies the issue.

  7. john personna says:

    Cain strikes me as a real Hail Mary. It says “we aren’t getting anywhere with our regular candidates, let’s go totally off the wall.”

  8. Nikki says:

    Do you or anyone you like have a plan?

    Yup. The Dems call it Medicare and Social Security.

  9. Sam says:

    The policy of the left must be maintained, anyone critical of Herman Cain must be so only because he is a black man and therefore you MUST be a raaaaacist.

  10. Sam says:


    Are you suggesting that those “plans” are financially sound and in no need of change?

  11. john personna says:


    Cain may be a great guy and a great CEO, but he has a little bit too much ‘loose cannon” for President.

    Hey, he’d make somebody a great Senator. Loose cannon works there. Ask Ron Paul.

  12. Sam says:


    I see some here just like to be smart asses until asked to respond!

  13. Sam says:

    @john personna:

    all those Ivy league educated “smart” politicians have worked out just so damn well, lets continue that!

  14. Not Likely says:

    It’s interesting how people that try to claim “the Left” make everything about race are always the first and only ones to bring up race…