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In Virginia, Democrat Tim Kaine is saying that the country would be in “disastrous shape” if the plan to partially privatize Social Security supported by his Republican opponent had been passed and put into effect. In Florida, the Chamber of Commerce is taking to the airwaves to attack Democratic Senator Bill Nelson’s support of a health care law that it says “will be a nightmare for Florida seniors.” And in North Dakota, the Democratic Senate candidate is hammering her GOP opponent for his support of a plan by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to overhaul Medicare.

In state after state, Medicare and Social Security have been moving onto center stage in hotly contested battles for U.S. Senate seats. And with control of the Senate up for grabs, the winners of the arguments over those issues could well decide who holds the gavel when the 113th Congress convenes on Jan. 3, 2013.

Republicans need to pick up four seats to recapture control of the Senate – three if Mitt Romney is elected president and his vice president casts the tie-breaking vote for majority leader. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report lists the Senate races in 10 states — Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin —  as toss-ups. And is says Senate races in a handful of other states – including Florida — could be in play.

The next president’s plans for Medicare and Social Security may well rise or fall, in large part, on who wins those contests. –Susan Milligan

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