According to a new survey from Quinnipiac University, in Florida Rick Perry’s Social Security message -- “it’s a Ponzi scheme” -- resonates with a whole lot of GOP voters. Among Republicans, the only voters allowed to participate in the state’s Republican primary, 52 percent say that a “Ponzi scheme” is a fair way to describe the retirement program.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has worked hard to convince Republicans that Perry is out to destroy Social Security, but that message has yet to take hold with Florida Republicans. By a more than 4-to-1 margin, Republican voters say that Perry wants to fix Social Security. Given the Florida GOP’s high concentration of senior voters -- 44 percent in the 2008 primary were 65 or older -- this must come as a pleasant surprise for the Perry team as it evades attacks from Romney and tackles states like South Carolina that also have large populations of senior voters.
But while Florida Republicans are convinced of Perry’s good intentions, Floridians writ large are less than thrilled with the Texas governor’s views on Social Security. Fifty percent of Floridians say that it’s “unfair” to describe Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme.” What’s more, solid majorities oppose all efforts to reduce Social Security benefits, from raising the retirement age to reducing benefits for current or future beneficiaries. Of course, Florida voters aren’t completely invested in the status quo, and among possible changes to Social Security, there’s one that commands wide support: an increase in the Social Security tax “cap” (from $106,800 to something higher), as a way to bring funds into the program and reduce future liabilities.
As far as Rick Perry is concerned, the implications of this poll are obvious. If he wins the nomination, he’ll have to contend with a phalanx of disgruntled voters in one of the election’s most important swing states (if Obama wins the usual slate of Democratic states plus Florida, he will have won the election). Mitt Romney isn’t in the clear either, despite his recent move to fashion himself as a defender of Social Security. His past and present proposals to raise the retirement age and introduce private accounts are back-door ways of cutting the program, and if voters catch on, he’ll be in trouble, too.