CAMPAIGN ADS: Dems, GOP Use Health Care to Entice Voters
With Vice President Al Gore and numerous other Democrats touting health care reform initiatives that resonate with voters, some Republican candidates are "edging toward the political center and claiming the initiatives as their own," the Washington Post reports. Democrats have been applying pressure on their GOP opponents, "filling the airwaves with commercials that call for a patients' bill of rights and a prescription drug benefit for Medicare." Not to be outdone, some Republicans are fighting back with their own health care ads. For example, Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), locked in a battle with Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan (D) over his Senate seat, has released several ads, touting his support of patients' rights and a prescription drug benefit. In one ad, Ashcroft also supports the creation of a Medicare "lock box," a key Gore proposal. Meanwhile, a Carnahan ad promises that he will "work to strengthen Medicare and fight for the strong prescription drug plan that our seniors need." Carnahan media adviser Saul Shorr said that Ashcroft and other GOP candidates are "desperately trying to change who they are" on the health care issue. He added, "They are trying to reinvent themselves after a pretty solid record against these things. The election is going to be a big test of whether they can get away with it." Health care also has been a central theme in the New York Senate race between Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) and Rep. Rick Lazio (R). One Clinton ad states: "The Senate just voted to kill the patients' bill of rights. Hillary supports it. In the House Rick Lazio voted against the bill, siding with the Republican leadership." In response, the Lazio campaign released an ad featuring Lazio's wife Patricia, a registered nurse, in which she states: It's a shame [that] Mrs. Clinton's campaign isn't telling it straight about Rick Lazio and health care. ... Rick voted for a patient's bill of rights, and Rick just helped pass new legislation to help seniors afford their prescription drugs."
Gore's Ducks in Row?
Perhaps the biggest winner in the airwaves battle over health care is Gore. Democratic strategists believe that the uniform themes running through the congressional ads are reinforcing the Vice President's campaign message among voters in many key states. Democratic National Committee spokesperson Jenny Backus said, "When you turn on the TV in a battleground state, you're going to be hearing the Democratic message, almost regardless of who's on the screen. On the Republican side, you're seeing George Bush say one thing, and you're hearing nobody else echoing it." Ashcroft media adviser Doug McAuliffe agreed saying that "there's pure symmetry between what Carnahan and Gore are doing. They're leading with the best issue -- prescription drugs." However, he added, "The question is whether they can make a five-month campaign out of prescription drugs, and the answer is no." A recently released Washington Post/Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University poll found that health care is the most important issue to voters in the upcoming election (Kurtz, 7/30).