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Really, It <i>Isn't</I> Risky

The CBS News Political Unit is tracking the latest campaign commercials. Jane Ruvelson assesses Social Security Leader, a Republican National Committee (RNC) ad about George W. Bush's plan to overhaul Social Security.

The Ad:
On Saturday, the RNC responded to the issue ad war begun by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) last week. RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson previewed a new 60-second spot called Social Security Leader, which spotlights George W. Bush's reform idea for the retirement system. Just exceeding the DNC's initial media buy, the RNC has bought up a little over $2 million worth of air time over the next seven to 10 days. In addition to Arkansas and Maine, the RNC will run its spot in the same 15 battleground states the DNC is running its ad.

Announcer: With our nation at peace - and more prosperous than ever - now is the time to find real solutions to America's problems. George Bush knows that to keep our commitment to seniors. We must strengthen and improve Social Security now, or the retirement of the Baby Boom Generation will push it near bankruptcy. He's proposing a bipartisan plan to strengthen and improve Social Security. The Bush Plan guarantees everyone at or near retirement every dollar of their benefits. No cuts in Social Security. You paid into it, it's your money and it will be there for you. And the Bush Plan gives younger workers a choice to invest a small part of their Social Security in sound investments they control ... for higher returns. Learn more about George Bush's voluntary plan for Personal Social Security Retirement Accounts. The Bush Blueprint: Better for seniors today, better for all of us tomorrow.

Social Security Leader opens with classic American images including the raising of a flag and fields of grain. Quick shots of Bush addressing crowds and shaking the hands of seniors follow, then there are images of masses of commuters exiting subway cars and speeding up escalators. The tempo slows as still photos of an ethnically diverse set of seniors are shown, along with text of the highlights of Bush's Social Security plan. The spot closes with more footage of Bush on the campaign trail.

Fact Check:
No inaccuracies, though there's some debate over whether his proposal to "strengthen and improve Social Security" would actually do so. Also, critics of Bush's plan contend that some individuals wouldn't necessarily earn higher returns on privately invested funds than they would if they stuck with the traditional retirement system plan. Lower income workers, who would invest less and therefore probably earn less in the stock market, might see less money than Social Security would have paid them. Last, though the market has performed well in the past, its future and potential "higher returns" can not be guaranteed.

The Strategy:
Unwilling to let the emocrats dominate the airwaves, Social Security Leader provides the RNC an opportunity to boost Bush's image and introduce his retirement reform plan to more voters. It also attempts to quiet concern raised by Gores criticism that the proposal is "risky" by reminding seniors three times that their benefits won't be cut.