Presidential Candidates Focus on Medicare, Abortion Issues in Post-Debate Campaign Speeches
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) on Thursday at AARP's national convention in Las Vegas "rolled out a new campaign speech packed with populist rhetoric and sharp indictments of the Bush administration," telling about 9,000 seniors that the Medicare legislation signed by President Bush "is a failure," the Washington Post reports. Kerry said, "The truth is, after doing nothing to lower the cost of prescription drugs for you, the president is now telling us that he has solved the problem," adding, "[Bush] has spent this entire campaign trying to make us believe the unbelievable" (Balz/VandeHei, Washington Post, 10/15).
According to the Washington Times, Kerry "accused" Bush, who had also been invited to speak at the convention but did not make an appearance, "of being afraid to address the AARP," even though the group had supported the new Medicare law when it was passed (Dinan, Washington Times, 10/15).
Kerry also "ridiculed the president" for saying in Wednesday's debate that only those who are at high risk and the elderly should receive flu shots this year, the Post reports. "Sounds just like his health care plan: Hope and pray you do not get sick," Kerry said (Washington Post, 10/15).
Kerry, responding to Bush's recent comments that the Democrat "can run but ... cannot hide" from his record, told AARP conventioneers that Bush "launched another false attack on me." Kerry, noting that boxer Joe Louis had originated the Bush phrase, quoted a taunt from another boxer, Muhammad Ali. "And so I say to you, Mr. President, after four years of jobs lost, families losing health coverage and falling incomes, is that all you've got?" Kerry said (Keen/Kasindorf, USA Today, 10/15).
Kerry running mate Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) also focused on health care in a speech in Iowa, "accusing Bush of having no plan to expand coverage or lower costs," the Post reports. "Here's the truth. The people of Iowa and the people of America can't take four more years of the same," Edwards said.
Bush, speaking at a rally for Republican governors in Las Vegas a few hours before the AARP convention, "hammer[ed] his rival on health care" and other issues, "sound[ing] the themes he will take to voters in the next 2 1/2 weeks: that Kerry is a big-government Massachusetts liberal," the Post reports (Washington Post, 10/15). Bush, noting that Kerry has voted against a ban on so-called "partial-birth" abortions, said, "He calls himself the candidate of conservative values but described the Reagan years as a time of moral darkness. He can run, but he cannot hide" (USA Today, 10/15).
First lady Laura Bush, who spoke at the AARP convention, said the president has "achieved historic results for America's seniors." Bush advisers said the third debate "has provided openings for Bush to attack Kerry on health care," which Bush will "try to exploit" in the final stretch of the election, the Post reports (Washington Post, 10/15).
Bush campaign spokesperson Brian Jones said, "The president has a fantastic record when it comes to seniors' issues. He passed the first prescription drug effort under Medicare, as opposed to John Kerry, who has voted eight times to raise Social Security taxes and opposed giving seniors more affordable prescription drugs" (Washington Times, 10/15).
A Gallop/CNN poll released Thursday found that voters "apparently favor" Kerry's health care plan over Bush's proposals, the Hartford Courant reports. According to the survey, 55% of registered voters said Kerry would do a better job of handling health care issues, compared with 41% of voters who preferred Bush's plan. According to the Courant, "Democrats typically have held a lead on the issue."
Bruce Freed, a Washington political analyst, said that the issue "may have greater resonance to voters who should vote Democratic. They view health care as a key policy issue." However, Freed notes that Kerry's plan, which includes rolling back tax cuts for those earning more than $200,000 a year, would face strong congressional opposition and might be defeated in a Republican-led House.
Dallas Salisbury, president of the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute, said that because of the budget deficit, Congress also likely would not approve Bush's plan, which calls for tax credits to help workers buy private insurance.
Robert Moffit, deputy domestic policy director at the Heritage Foundation, said, "I think what we're going to get is trench warfare for the next several years" (MacDonald, Hartford Courant, 10/15).
Several broadcast programs reported on health care and the presidential election:
- APM's "Marketplace Morning Report": The segment includes comments from Chris Farrell, economics editor at APM's "Sound Money," about the rate of premium increases for employer-sponsored health care coverage (Farrell, "Marketplace Morning Report," APM, 10/14). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": NPR's Don Gonyea discusses Kerry's address at AARP. The segment also includes comments from Kerry (Siegel, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/14). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment -- part of an NPR series broadcasting excerpts from the presidential and vice presidential candidates' campaign speeches -- includes an excerpt of Edwards speaking in Kansas City, Mo., about health care issues, including the reimportation of prescription drugs (Norris, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/13). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer": The segment examines Bush's and Kerry's statements on increasing costs and the rising number of uninsured residents and includes comments from the candidates (Dentzer, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 10/14). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer": The segment includes comments from Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, and Gail Wilensky, senior fellow at Project HOPE and former administrator of CMS -- then known as HCFA -- in the first Bush administration (Warner, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 10/14). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- PBS' "Nightly Business Report": The segment includes comments from Henry Aaron, health policy expert at the Brookings Institution; Joseph Antos, a health care scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition; Bush; and Kerry (Gersh, "Nightly Business Report," PBS, 10/14). The complete transcript is available online.
- WBUR's "Here & Now": The segment includes comments from Janet Hook of the Los Angeles Times (Young, "Here & Now," WBUR, 10/14). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.