How do political leaders politicise welfare state “reform pressures”, e.g. unemployment, ageing or globalisation, in election campaigns? Competing expectations range from no politicization at all to a clear and unbiased coupling between pressures and intended policy responses. Eighteen speeches held by prime ministerial candidates at election-year party congresses in Germany, Norway and Sweden (2000–2010) reveal an unfinished and biased problem-solution coupling. On the one hand, even in these affluent countries pressures are frequently politicised. On the other hand, leaders either cherry-pick less painful policy solutions, or refrain altogether from debating them. So, while citizens learn that the welfare state is pressured, they are not exposed to the full range of policies they increasingly have reason to expect after elections.