HAZARD — In a new TV ad designed to win over senior citizens, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway shows Republican Rand Paul saying "the real answer to Medicare would be a $2,000 deductible."
Paul called the 30-second ad "a lie" and "politics at its lowest form" during a news conference held on the second day of a three-day campaign swing in Eastern Kentucky.
The spot is the latest attempt by Conway, the state's attorney general, to use Paul's own words to portray him as out of step with voters. Until now, Conway primarily has been using TV ads to portray Paul as soft on crime and drug abuse.
The latest ad shows several seniors condemning the idea of a $2,000 deductible for Medicare, a federal health insurance program for people who are 65 and older or who meet special criteria.
Never miss a local story.
In the ad, one senior says Paul is "off the wall" and another wonders "what planet he's from."
Paul's comment was made in June 2009 as he spoke to a group of conservatives in Lexington.
In a video of the speech posted on YouTube, Paul explains why he thinks a higher deductible for Medicare recipients would help reduce the overall cost of health care in the nation.
In the video, Paul calls Medicare "socialized medicine" but goes on to say that "we can't just eliminate Medicare."
Instead, he says, the nation needs a "market-based system" that doesn't rely on price controls.
"It's counter-intuitive to a lot of people, but you have to pay for things if you want prices to come down," Paul said. "So you really need higher deductibles. And the real answer to Medicare would be a $2,000 deductible, but try selling that one in an election. But that's the real answer is you have to pay for things."
Asked about the ad after meeting with several supporters at a Hazard golf course, Paul strongly dismissed it as "demagoguery."
"It's also why we can't have an intelligent discussion in America," Paul said.
He said he does not favor a $2,000 Medicare deductible. He said he was simply discussing various options to deal with Medicare but not endorsing any one. He noted a bipartisan commission is studying ways to keep the program afloat.
Pressed on why he even mentioned a $2,000 deductible, Paul said he did so "to make a point that consumers or people who get something through entitlements will have to participate more in how we pay for them."
"We can't continue to do this the way we have been doing. Another solution, which I'm not in favor of, is raising the payroll tax."
Conway campaign spokesman John Collins said the ad is running statewide.
In recent weeks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads, a conservative group linked to Karl Rove, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, have been running TV ads in Kentucky accusing Conway of supporting cuts to Medicare as part of the federal health insurance overhaul law.
The Conway campaign said that the ads are inaccurate and that Paul is getting help from "a shadowy group" that is "funded with secret donations from the same establishment Paul once ran against."
During campaign stops in Eastern Kentucky, Paul continued to link Conway with President Barack Obama, who remains unpopular in Kentucky.
Disgust with Obama's policies, particularly the health care law, is "a unifying theme" in Kentucky, Paul said. If that message gets out across Eastern Kentucky, where Democratic voter registration is strong, "we will win by 20 points," Paul said.
He also said he thinks he will have enough money in the last five weeks of the campaign.
He has scheduled a fund-raiser Saturday in Erlanger with Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and his father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. His campaign is also having a fund-raising "Webathon/money bomb" with video messages Wednesday and Thursday from supporters across the country.
Conway and Paul will face off in their first debate Sunday morning with Chris Wallace at the Louisville studios of Fox 41. The program will air on Fox News and Fox affiliates around the nation.