CNN and the state GOP hold a televised debate in Jacksonville tonight at 8, and based on recent polls it could be a crucial opportunity for Newt Gingrich to regain some momentum before Tuesday's primary. But AARP said it's almost a crucial - and overdue - opportunity for a serious debate about entitlements in the state with more residents over 65 than any other.
"Now is the time, and Florida is the place, to bring the debate about Social Security and Medicare out from behind closed doors in Washington and into the public," said Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida interim state director. "It is time for older Americans to have a voice in this vital discussion. They've earned that right."
Johnson noted that candidates fielded no Social Security or Medicare questions from debate moderators or journalists at the NBC News-Tampa Bay Times-National Journal debate on Monday. At appearances around the state Monday and Tuesday, candidates traded jabs about each other's campaign consultants and tax returns, but paid little attention to how proposals to strengthen Social Security and Medicare would affect ordinary Floridians of all generations. Johnson also noted that President Obama did not elaborate on his plans for Social Security and Medicare's future in the State of the Union address Tuesday.
"We're pleased that candidates are talking to Floridians 50+," Johnson said. "Now let's hear them say something – something specific – about how their plans would affect real Floridians. One in three Floridians 65 or older who receive Social Security benefits depend on Social Security for all their income. Don't they deserve to know exactly how they'd be affected by the candidates' plans? We encourage national and Florida media to press candidates for specific details on these questions this week and throughout the campaign."
Johnson noted that AARP will host two "Listening Sessions" at which ordinary Floridians can voice their views on these critical issues. They are at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Orlando Crowne Plaza Hotel, 304 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando; and at 3 p.m. Friday at Robert King High Towers, 1405 NW Seventh St., Miami. The Robert King High event will be conducted primarily in Spanish