"I don't support privatizing Social Security and anyone who says I do is lying. I want to make it absolutely clear: I am against privatizing Social Security. I am against personal savings accounts. How much clearer can I be? The public has said it is against personal accounts so lets take that idea off the table."
That's not language from a typical policy speech. It was almost as if Barletta was denying something slanderous. and addressing a possible liability. Ironically, with the campaign just beginning, it was Barletta who hit Kanjorski on the Social Security issue first.
The move by Barletta appears rooted in electoral politics.
Pennsylvania is an "older" state to begin with. It ranks 3rd in the nation in regards to percentage of the population age 65 and over with only Florida (16.8%) and West Virginia (15.3%) ahead. Pennsylvania (15.1%) has close to 2 million seniors, and is 3% above the national average. Furthermore, there is only one Congressional district within Pennsylvania below the national average.
Nominally, the 11th Congressional District--Rep. Kanjorski's district--has the second most seniors according to the 2006 American Community Survey. 4% greater than the national average.
In addition, Pennsylvania has a strong elderly voter turnout. If you look at the exit polls from 2006, this is well documented. For instance, in the governor's race and senate race, 20% of those who voted were of age 65 or older. This is 5% greater than their estimated percentage of the population, and this in a state with a larger amount of seniors.
Therefore, it would politically make sense for Barletta to distance himself from the privatizers. Those favoring private accounts would directly alter the scheme that seniors are currently taking advantage of. Hence, it wouldn't be a popular choice for Barletta to favor such drastic changes. Even though you may not agree with his decision, the logic behind it is quite apparent. To better his chances, Barletta went even further on the issue by promising not to raise the retirement age or cut benefits.
It seems that by limiting the gap between he and Kanjorski on this issue, Barletta avoids a distinction that Kanjorski could have exploited in the fall.
|District||Over age 65||As a % of district|