Think tank says Dems can benefit at polls by tackling entitlements

The economic picture is likely to be mixed by the fall of 2012, so the issue will not be a guaranteed boost either to the president or to his opponent demanding change.

“That leaves the debt,” Third Way argues.

“Voters are extremely deficit sensitive and are likely to remain so. The party seen as most serious on the issue will win the day,” the report states. “We don’t believe Republicans ‘going too far’ will be their Waterloo. They tried to privatize Social Security in 2005 and still fared better with seniors than every other age group in every election cycle since.”

Citing polling data, the group warns that Democrats risk becoming the “status quo party on the budget.” It cites a February Garin-Hart-Yang research paper and a Feb. 24-28 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that found 63 percent of those surveyed fearing Democrats would not do enough on the deficit.

Third Way goes on to argue that shoring up entitlements offers a chance to win over younger voters worried that benefits will not be available when they retire.

It also argues that views on Medicare and Social Security are “nuanced.” While one polls shows three-quarters of Americans believing neither need to be cut to balance the budget, only 62 percent in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll said cutting Social Security for the wealthy would be totally or mostly acceptable, and 56 percent said raising the retirement age to 69 by 2075 would be.