Thursday, April 17, 2008

McCain on the Offensive: Health Care

New York Times, October 24, 2008


Thirty-three. An outraged John McCain, campaigning like a man twenty years his younger, is at his most exercised when spitting out the number 33. Is this related to tax cuts? Fiscal responsibility, campaign finance, or another issue upon which he has built his finely crafted persona?

No. It's health care. McCain refers to the fact that the United Nations ranks the United States thirty-third on infant mortality in the world. Typical is a visibly exercised McCain in Portland, Oregon last week: "Thirty-third?? You're telling me that America can overthrow Saddam Hussein, we can built a nation of freedom and opportunity, but we lose more babies than Slovenia? Than Cuba? An American baby has less chance of living than a Cuban baby...and if he does live, chances are he'll die before a baby born in Bosnia!"

This radical change has clearly left the Democratic Party, and its nominee Senator Barack Obama, flummoxed. With McCain neutralizing health care as an advantage, the Democrats have been casting about wildly for an issue to balance it. Given the foreign policy lightness of the Obama-Feingold ticket, attempts to focus the debate on Iraq have failed. McCain is eating away steadily at Democratic advantages in key demographics, including married women.

McCain has hinted at an upcoming proposal for dealing with what he decries as "unacceptable standards that leave the most vulnerable Americans without adequate care." This turn of events has raised eyebrows in the medical community, but McCain recently dismissed these concerns, stating at a rally in Pennsylvania that "I want to solve our health-care problems; Gore wants to subsidize them. I will work for families. He will work for the entrenched interests that fund his campaigns. I will challenge the status quo."

Unless the Democrats can regain this issue, the outlook appears bleak for Obama. With a significant fraction of "health-care voters" moving to his column, Dr. McCain may soon end up making house-calls at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Part of my NPLB series

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