As Bush Loses the Seniors, Democrats Can Take a Stand on Medicare Drug Benefit
Echoing a post we made several days ago, the New York Times ran a story today stating the Bush is in trouble with older voters, due to the issues of deficits and Medicare drug benefit inaction.
President Bush's support among older voters has dropped substantially in recent months, eroding recent Republican gains and highlighting the importance of this critical electoral bloc in 2004, political strategists and analysts say.
Mr. Bush's popularity has declined over all since early summer, but some recent polls suggest that he lost significantly more ground among voters 65 and older than he did among younger Americans. Politicians in both parties consider older voters to be particularly important because they are much more likely to vote than younger people, and because they are heavily concentrated in states that are often presidential battlegrounds, like Florida and Pennsylvania.
A poll conducted this month by The New York Times and CBS News showed that Mr. Bush had a 41 percent approval rating among the 65-and-older voters, his lowest among any age group. That was down from 44 percent in July and 63 percent in May.
With the House and Senate GOP both moving towards a conference committee to work out the details of a Medicare drug benefit that not only has significant multi-thousand dollar coverage gaps in it, but also doesn’t take effect until 2006, Democrats are in a position to hang tight and insist on full coverage and no gaps, plus an immediate effective date. GOP resistance to such coverage centers on not exceeding an arbitrarily set ten-year ceiling of $400 billion, whereas full coverage is likely to cost upwards of $500 billion over that same period. So for the sake of an additional $15-20 billion a year, which is exactly what Congress just handed to Bush for one year’s worth of Iraqi reconstruction, out of a $2 trillion annual budget, Democrats could insist that any Medicare drug benefit provide complete coverage and no gaps immediately. Any such plan can still have copayments and means-testing so that benefits are going to those who really need it while ensuring some cost-sharing.
Its not like the polls are not on the Democrats’ side. An ABC News/Washington Post poll out today shows that the public supports by almost a two to one margin universal health care, a surprising shift over previous years. So the Democratic Party has the opportunity to not only demand real drug coverage and not Rovian gimmicks, but also show seniors that their concerns about meeting basic expenses are important to the party.