Here's how much the debate on Social Security is changing—in the middle of a political ad against Sen. Kay Hagan, Karl Rove's Crossroads group says that balancing the budget with Medicare and Social Security cuts is wrong. Again, this is pretty typical of Republican attacks in the last several election cycles. Attacking Democrats from the left began pretty much as soon as President Obama and congressional Democrats decided to play along with the deficit fetishists and started offering up things like the retirement age, chained CPI, and Medicare benefits.
But let's remember what happened with the Simpson-Bowles plan that the ad is referring to. It's Hagan's statement in support of the catfood commission that's the focus of this ad. Which is kind of strange, because back in the day, Republicans on the commission opposed it—and ensured its ultimate failure—because it relied too much on tax hikes and not enough on cutting spending. Even stranger, Republicans later embraced the chairmen's report (what Simpson and Bowles came up with when it was clear that the commission itself was a failure) in order to criticize Obama for not pushing it. All of which goes back to the basic point that Republicans are just hypocritical opportunists—not too much new there.
It also, though, demonstrates another political truism: Social Security is the third rail, and Republicans know it. The party that cuts these programs is going to be the losing party for at least a generation. The Republican game has long been to figure out how to convince Democrats that they have to damage this extremely popular program for the greater good of the nation, so that they can then use it as a cudgel against Democrats in the next election. (And, while they're at it, cripple Social Security and Medicare enough that privatizing them becomes the only option.)
Rove's strange ad is an admission of one thing: cuts to Social Security and Medicare are hugely unpopular. That should be enough to convince every Democrat running for re-election that the smart thing to do in this campaign is to run on expanding and strengthening Social Security. It should also be enough to convince them to never negotiate on these issues with Republicans again.