Kerry Addresses Prescription Drug Costs in Effort to Recruit Senior Voters
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) on Wednesday will begin to try "funnel[ing] seniors' anxiety about rising prescription drug prices" into votes by launching an effort to identify, register and mobilize seniors to cast ballots, the AP/Newark Star-Ledger reports. Kerry's campaign plans to increase voter registration among seniors and inform them about absentee ballots and convenient polling sites through events at senior centers and retirement homes (Dalrymple, AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 8/11).
The "Seniors for Kerry-Edwards" program also will include intergenerational voter mobilization efforts and a Web-based initiative (Halbfinger, New York Times, 8/11). Kerry discussed the initiative in Nevada, which has a large population of retirees and is a closely contested state between Kerry and President Bush.
According to the New York Times, the Alliance for Retired Americans on Wednesday will endorse Kerry for president. ARA, which has about three million members, plans to conduct "full-scale get-out-the-vote operations" in five closely contested states with large elderly populations (New York Times, 8/11).
In prepared remarks to be delivered on Wednesday, Kerry said, "With rising health care costs and a dragging economy, our seniors and families are squeezed like never before." Kerry added that the new Medicare law, which the Bush administration has spent $87 million to promote, according to HHS, is "riddled with waste and handouts to drug companies." He said, "We can do better" (AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 8/11).
Several newspapers recently addressed senior voters' influence on the presidential election, including discussions of health-related issues. Summaries are provided below.
- The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday examined the seniors' "formidable voting bloc" that may soon be facing an "ideological rift" as more conservative members of the baby-boomer generation begin to retire. According to the Census Bureau, about 72% of eligible voters between ages 65 and 74 voted in 2000 -- the largest proportion of any age group. Hank Lacayo, state president of the Congress of California Seniors, said that seniors "share many common concerns due to health and aging circumstances." Marvin Schachter, a member of the California Commission on Aging said, "I think there's been an increase in senior activism," adding that the next generation of AARP members "has a great number of people who are Republican" (Ordona , Los Angeles Times, 8/11).
- The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday examined the impact of the expanding younger, baby boomer bloc of AARP, as "[t]housands of sexagenarians (and older) have become frustrated" with the group's shift in politics and operations, including AARP's support of the new Medicare law. About 60,000 people dropped their AARP membership after the group endorsed the law. According to the Los Angeles Times, some seniors say AARP has "lost touch with its older members" while it "actively court[s] baby boomers." Health care consultant Bernard Weintraub said, "I don't look at [AARP] as my spokesperson anymore." AARP spokesperson Mark Beach says the group, which had a net gain in membership last year, supports changes to the Medicare law (Ordona , Los Angeles Times, 8/11).
- The New York Times on Wednesday looked at how seniors' "dissatisfaction" with the new Medicare law has made them an "unexpectedly fertile voting bloc" for Democrats, despite earlier beliefs by Republicans that the new Medicare law would "allow them to make sharp inroads" among senior voters. Some Republican congressional candidates have moved away from Bush's prescription drug policies, and Bush-Cheney advertisements have "steered clear of any message aimed specifically at the elderly," the New York Times reports. Bush-Cheney campaign spokesperson Matthew Dowd called the Medicare law a "first step," adding that seniors concerned with values such as so-called "partial-birth" abortion would "overwhelmingly side with the president." ARA Executive Director Edward Coyle said that while Republicans "really did believe" that the new Medicare law would help them in 2004, "by the time we get to September and October, the only people talking about it will be those who voted against it" (New York Times, 8/11).