PRESIDENTIAL RACE: Gore Stumps on Patients’ Rights
With the California primary one week away, Vice President Al Gore continued to stump in the West, hoping to boost his already enormous lead over rival Bill Bradley. Gore focused on health care at a rally in Seattle this weekend. There, Gore blasted a proposed plan by Aetna U.S. Healthcare, to drop coverage for a young boy with a life-threatening respiratory condition. Ian Malone was born with the ailment and requires round-the-clock nursing care. However, Aetna told Ian's parents that they were planning on scaling back coverage until March 18, when their policy would be terminated. Gore also indicated that an Aetna caseworker suggested that the Malones' give up custody of the child so he would become eligible for Medicaid. Gore said that the Malones' story "underscores the urgent need for Congress to enact the Democratic version of a patients' bill of rights," and suggested that the GOP plan was "phony." However, an Aetna spokeperson said the vice president and the Malones were misrepresenting the case, as Aetna officials continue to work with the family to "determine the appropriate level of care for the child." Coincidentally, the Bradley campaign, after hearing a story on Ian's plight, contacted the Malones, who instead chose to meet with Gore (Los Angeles Times, 2/28). In further attempts to appeal to California voters, Gore told the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board this weekend that although he once held "personal opposition" to abortion, he stance has changed due to his "overriding belief in a woman's right to choose." In a state where seven in 10 voters characterize themselves as pro-choice, Gore was responding to a recent Bradley ad, which asked, "Are you anti-choice or pro- choice? ... you can't straddle this issue." Gore told the board: "I've learned a lot from what women have told me about the circumstances that can occur, and I respect their legal right to choose, and I respect the choices that they make. And I trust them to make those choices." Responding to critics who suggest that Gore once opposed federal funding for abortion, Gore said, "Fair enough. Fair enough. I've changed" (Marinucci, 2/28).
Don't Pin Us Down
California's "difficult-to-categorize" voters are proving perplexing for pollsters and pundits alike (Chance, Sacramento Bee, 2/27). While Gore has a commanding lead over Bradley, the GOP race is still very much up in the air. According to at Time/CNN poll released Saturday, Gore has a five to one advantage over Bradley, while Texas Governor George W. Bush leads Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) by 25% among registered Republican voters. However, the same poll found that it is McCain, not Bush, who would fair better in the state against Gore. A Gore-McCain race would be a statistical deadheat with voters split 46% and 47%, respectively. In a Gore-Bush match up, Gore would beat Bush 54%-41%. The poll has a margin of error of three percentage points (Los Angeles Times, 2/28). A San Francisco Examiner/KTVU poll shows similar results. Bush would lose to Gore by seven percentage points while McCain is tied with Gore. McCain would beat Bradley by 5 points, while a Bradley-Bush race would be split. The poll of 803 state voters has a +/- 3.5 point margin of error. Despite a 48%-28% lead for Bush among state Republicans, a Field Poll released Monday was "nothing but good news for McCain," whose support among all likely voters has doubled from 10% in January to its current 20%. That leaves him only two points behind Bush's 22% in the state's open primary and eight points behind Gore's 28%. Bradley trailed in the poll, collecting only 10%. That poll also showed McCain as a more formidable candidate against Gore; in a head-to-head matchup, McCain would beat the vice president 48%- 41%. Bush would lose to Gore, 51%-41% and also to Bradley, 47%- 43%. McCain would beat Bradley 52%-35%. The poll has a 3.2 point margin of error (Marinucci/Wildermuth, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/28).