Santorum Urges Swift Medicare Action

Posted October 20, 2003 at 4:45pm

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.) warned his GOP colleagues in a private memo last week that Democrats gained ground in a new poll and suggested Republicans need to start sharpening their focus on domestic issues.

“Senate Republicans maintain a brand advantage over Senate Democrats, but as we have seen in recent months the margin is closing,” Santorum wrote in the Oct. 9 memo.

The Pennsylvanian, using the latest data from the Winston Group, noted Senate Republicans enjoyed a 50 to 39 percent positive to negative brand image with voters, while Democrats had a 49 to 40 percent positive to negative ratio. The Winston Group is headed by David Winston, a Roll Call contributing writer.

Since August, though, Democrats have shown more movement in the positive category. The same poll three months ago had Democrats with a 46 to 42 percent positive to negative brand image, while Republicans registered a 48 to 40 percent positive to negative brand image. The latest Winston poll of 1,000 registered voters was conducted Sept. 30 through Oct. 1.

Santorum concluded the Democrats’ recent rise in the polls is a result of their ability to be heard by voters on domestic issues, while Republicans largely failed at delivering their message on similar topics.

“The quality of our message would have been better had more of us talked about jobs and the economy,” Santorum wrote.

In an interview, Santorum said people need to understand that a domestic agenda cannot be forgotten even though foreign policy issues are currently dominating the news.

“As much as everybody around here wants to talk about Iraq, and I go back home and people are interested in Iraq, they are not going to judge us by what happens in Iraq,” Santorum said. “They may judge the president by what happens in Iraq, but they are not going to judge us.”

Santorum is advocating that the GOP take an aggressive approach on domestic issues, urging his colleagues to approve a Medicare prescription drug plan, an energy bill and class action legislation before Congress adjourns.

“We must act on key legislation before this session comes to a close,” Santorum advised. “It is clear that the Democrats will continue to slow-walk and obstruct legislative business to create a platform for their presidential candidates.”

Despite unease among many conservatives about the scope and price tag of the proposal, Santorum noted that passage of a Medicare prescription drug plan is of particular importance to independent and undecided voters, and cautioned “the political consequence is clear if the GOP does not act.”

The prescription drug legislation is currently in conference, where Republican House and Senate negotiators are trying to bridge their policy differences.

“We must pull out all stops to make progress for the country,” Santorum wrote. “This means doing all we can to pass a conference report out of committee and bring it to the floor of the Senate; and when we pass a final bill, it must produce a clear benefit with minimal negative consequences such as loss of benefits or reduction of health care coverage.”

To counter the Democratic argument that President Bush’s tax cuts have not helped spur the sagging economy, Santorum recommended that GOP Senators talk up the news “that 57,000 new jobs were created last month as a result of the tax cut.” But he added that the GOP rhetoric cannot stop there, and they must continue to “express our ongoing commitment to job creation and economic growth.”