John Kasich on Social Security cuts: ‘Get over it’

Exeter, New Hampshire CNN  — 

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Friday that a New Hampshire audience member would “get over” cuts to Social Security payments as a result of his reform plan – and the left is already pouncing on the comment.

The Republican presidential candidate was asked about entitlement reform during NH1’s “Fiscal Fridays” series in Concord, New Hampshire, on Friday, and he said it was something that would have to get done.

“We can’t balance a budget without entitlement reform. What are we, kidding?” Kasich said when asked about his opponents who say they won’t touch entitlements.

Kasich said he was part of the effort to reform Medicare and Medicaid in the ’90s, and that he also had a plan to change Social Security so that initial benefits were lowered for individuals not yet near eligibility.

He asked audience members to raise their hands if they were far from receiving Social Security, asked them if they knew yet what their initial benefit would be and then asked them if they would be bothered if it were a little lower for the good of the country.

One person said it would be a problem.

“Well, you’d get over it, and you’re going to have to get over it,” Kasich joked.

Within an hour, the liberal PAC American Bridge was already out with a video of the encounter, and the New Hampshire Democratic Party quickly circulated the video, saying Kasich “threatened our Granite State seniors.”

Kasich did not go into full detail on what his plan would be, saying he would roll it out soon after some number crunching. But he noted that in the past, his cuts would have started with baby boomers.

He initially said young people would see “a lot” lower benefit, before correcting himself to say perhaps not “a lot,” but some amount.

RELATED: 9 things to know about Social Security as it turns 80

Later in the day Kasich dismissed the criticism as “silly” and said “difficult” bipartisan changes are necessary in order to stabilize Social Security.

Kasich told reporters that Democrats “basically allowed this program to get to a point where it could go bankrupt” and said they should focus on proposals to fix the problem.

“It’s the silly season on the campaign trail and we’re getting close to Halloween and they just want to scare people,” Kasich said.

Kasich continued discussing entitlements throughout New Hampshire stops Friday, including a town hall meeting in Stratham.

“You’re on Medicare and you want me to ignore the fact that it’s going broke, you’re not going to like me,” he told the audience, adding later, “I’d rather have people be in a position where they’re aggravated with me so I can accomplish something, than have them love me and accomplish nothing, OK. I’m not there to run a popularity contest.”

CNN’s Cassie Spodak contributed from Exeter, New Hampshire. CNN’s Tal Kopan contributed from Washington.