A political action committee (PAC) supporting former President Donald Trump has released a controversial ad criticizing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for supporting cuts to popular retirement programs and allegedly eating pudding with his fingers. The ad, which was widely criticized as being gross and inappropriate, claims that DeSantis has his “dirty fingers” all over senior entitlements, and supports cutting Medicare and slashing Social Security, even raising the retirement age. The ad was released as DeSantis gears up for a possible presidential run in 2024.
The pudding reference in the ad comes from a March report in The Telegraph, which claimed that a former DeSantis staff worker had seen the governor eat pudding with three fingers. While the pudding reference was widely ridiculed on social media, the ad’s policy content is more serious, as it points to DeSantis’ voting record as a member of Congress in the early 2010s, when he supported symbolic Republican budget plans that would have cut benefits and raised the eligibility age for both Social Security and Medicare to 70.
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At the time, reforming entitlements was a pet project of former House Speaker Paul Ryan, and it was not a controversial policy position among Republicans. However, cutting retirement programs is politically unpopular, and most voters do not support funding cuts, despite concerns about the long-term financing of Social Security and Medicare, which face shortfalls in the coming decade.
Since his 2016 campaign, Trump has sought to differentiate himself from other Republicans by speaking out against cuts to Social Security and Medicare. As president, however, he suggested he was open to reducing spending in the programs and proposed modest cuts as part of his symbolic budget documents. This year, Trump warned Republicans not to touch Social Security or Medicare in their spending standoff with President Joe Biden, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy quickly fell in line.
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This is not the first ad from the MAGA Inc. political action committee to criticize DeSantis’ past position on Social Security and Medicare. A previous ad released in March claimed that DeSantis voted three separate times to cut Social Security. While DeSantis’ voting record on entitlement programs may be a liability for him in a presidential run, he has also been praised by conservatives for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida.
In addition to his record on entitlement programs, DeSantis has drawn criticism from Democrats and some Republicans for his opposition to mask mandates and vaccine mandates, and his decision to keep Florida’s economy open during the pandemic. While his supporters have praised him for his hands-off approach and his efforts to keep Florida open for business, critics have accused him of putting politics ahead of public health, and some have called for his resignation.
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Despite the controversy surrounding DeSantis’ record and policies, he remains a popular figure among conservatives, and he is widely seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2024. His close ties to Trump and his record on entitlement programs may be a liability in a general election, but they could also help him win the Republican nomination, which tends to be dominated by conservative voters.
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As the 2024 presidential race begins to take shape, it is clear that entitlement programs will be a major issue, with Democrats and Republicans offering different visions for the future of Social Security and Medicare. While Democrats have called for expanding Social Security benefits and shoring up the program’s finances by raising taxes on the wealthy, Republicans have generally favored reducing spending and restructuring the programs to make them more sustainable. It remains to be seen how these competing visions will play out in the coming years, but it is clear that retirement programs will continue to be a major issue for politicians and voters alike.