Dems seize on GOP candidates' comments about unemployed

Conservative Republicans have appeared anything but compassionate when talking about unemployment benefits this election cycle. 

Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R) said the unemployed are “spoiled.” Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul suggested people on unemployment insurance need “tough love.” And most recently, in Pennsylvania, gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett (R) said “the jobs are there,” but the out-of-work don’t want them.

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Observers said Republicans want to capitalize on voters’ antipathy toward government spending by talking tough on the benefits, but Democrats have tried to capitalize on their remarks.

“Other Republicans have reiterated this same argument that the [unemployment] benefits create a disincentive,” said Terry Madonna, who directs the center for politics at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. “The mindset of conservative Republicans running this year is much more an edge on debt, deficit” at the expense of government benefits for the unemployed.

In Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) campaign has seized on the remarks Angle made in May to KRNV, a Reno television station.

“You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job, but it doesn’t pay as much,” Angle said. “And so that’s what’s happened to us is that we have put in so much entitlement into our government that we really have spoiled our citizenry and said you don’t want the jobs that are available.”

The Reid camp has tried to use the remarks to paint Angle as “just too extreme."

In Kentucky, Democrat Jack Conway’s campaign has used Paul’s statements from a June interview with WVLK-AM to accuse him of hypocrisy.

"As bad as it sounds, ultimately we do have to sometimes accept a wage that's less than we had at our previous job in order to get back to work and allow the economy to get started again," Paul said in the interview. "Nobody likes that, but it may be one of the tough love things that has to happen."

“He's fine with feeding at the federal trough himself,” Conway’s campaign said in a statement. “He just doesn't want others, whether they be unemployed or the farmers whose subsidies he wants to end, feeding by his side.”

It’s unclear whether the candidates’ remarks will doom their campaigns. At least in Pennsylvania, Corbett’s controversial remarks about the unemployed appear not to have adversely affected probable voters, as he still holds a double-digit lead over Democrat Dan Onorato in the state’s gubernatorial race.

Corbett has a 49 to 39 percent lead over Onorato among 750 likely votes in a Rasmussen Reports poll released Friday. The survey, which mirrors results from June, was conducted July 14 — five days after Corbett said “the jobs are there” and people just don’t want to work.

“People don’t want to come back to work while they still have some unemployment,” he told Pennsylvania Public Radio on July 9. “That’s becoming a problem.”

“The jobs are there, but if we keep extending unemployment, people are just going to sit there,” he said.

Pennsylvania had a 9.2 percent unemployment rate last month.

Onorato has already used the comments in a Web ad. At an event on Friday in Lancaster, Pa., he again hit Corbett for his comments.

“A Harrisburg insider like Tom Corbett who doesn’t even recognize the problems families are facing will never be able to offer the solutions that Pennsylvania needs,” Onorato said.

Madonna said Corbett’s remarks aren’t “going to defeat him,” but it has given his Democratic rival the initiative.

“What he’s done is to give his opponent an opening, and his opponent is working diligently to exploit it,” Madonna said. “It’s [Corbett’s] single most important misstep as a candidate.”