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Bush and Senior Voters

A story in yesterday’s New York Times discussed the fall in Bush’s approval ratings among seniors. The most recent CBS News/New York Times poll has Bush’s approval rating at just 41 percent among those 65 and older, a fall of 22 points since May.

That’s very bad news for President Bush. Seniors were his worst age group in 2000 (he lost them 50 percent to 47 percent) and if he does much more poorly among them in 2004 that could doom his re-election chances.

Of course, Bush’s strategists hope that passage of a prescription drug benefit for Medicare will stop the bleeding among senior voters. But will it? In a just-released Washington Post poll, his approval rating on prescription drugs for seniors is an abysmal 35 percent. And the last time the prescription drugs bill was discussed intensively, in the last half of June, his overall approval rating among seniors dropped 12 points.

As savvy nonpartisan analyst Charlie Cook has pointed out, “If the prescription drug benefit is a factor in next year's election, it will be as an albatross around the necks of Republicans and the Bush administration." He argues that what seniors want is a drug benefit like a Fortune 500 company might provide--modest premium, minimal co-pay, no gaps and unlimited coverage--and they want it provided through Medicare. What they're likely going to get doesn't look anything like that and when they figure this out--and Cook thinks they will--it will be the Republicans who'll pay the price.

DR agrees. Democrats should be able to do very well with senior voters in 2004 and, if they do, Bush will have to make up that deficit among other age groups, which could be very tough. Especially if Democrats push the other health care issue: the cost, availability and coverage of health insurance. In the Post poll, Bush’s approval rating on this issue is just 31 percent with 60 percent disapproval.

Looks like Rove and Co. have some work to do.


So DR,

What do you think the health-care and/or prescription drug-benefits should be? Specifically, how much $$$, where does it come from, and how would you suggest the Dem nominee deal w/ the GOP demagouging on that issue?

Is it just a matter of embracing the issues this time around, as opposed to skirting the issue like in the recent past?

Also, are you going to do any analysis of congressional elections? (either Senate or House)

Are there any issues that Dem's can rally around to help win those elections?

Anyway to persuade moderate GOP house members (who are pissed at Tom Delay) to see the light?

The Democrats need to take an entirely different approach to the Prescription issue.

First -- they need a primary data base that allows for an understanding of all drug pricing. In essence the question is why do Canadians, Brits and Danes pay less than 50% of American prices for precisely the same compounds? The answer is simple -- their governments negotiate the wholesale price with Big Pharm as part of their national health programs, which in turn are part of their national budgets. The incentive is clearly there to negotiate the best price. In the US we can't do that because of the fragmentation of the major purchasers. (However the VA does a pretty good job for its clients.)

Second -- we need a thoroughgoing review of all the rules that apply to setting royalities and licensing agreements. The vast majority of new drugs developed in the US -- and to some extent in other parts of the world depend on basic research paid for by US taxpayers through the National Institutes of Health, and through the Pentagon. As things now stand the national treasury now gets very little back on this investment, but if the story were clear, not only could this be reversed, but it could become a serious source of income that could be devoted to either futther research or to the delivery-consumption side. Big Pharm does very little basic research -- virtually all of it is supported by grants to University based researchers, and patents generally are shared among the research team, the University and the Federal grant agency. Big Pharm research is heavy on process development that converts a lab idea into a commodity. It has no incentive to develop products that minimize cost to consumer. These incentives need to be radically changed, but that can only happen if the whole system is better understood.

Democrats need to understand that discussing this whole issue only as it impacts the elderly is a political mistake -- because it is not just the elderly who need drugs and who face the sky high prices without coverage. This gets us back to question one, Why does not the Government negotiate in the interests of consumers?

I live in Georgia (but am not from here) and have to ask--what is so essential about the South? Winning industrial Midwestern states (where I'm from) is much more important and possible. The elevction can be one w/o the easy rider rifle rack crowd. Actually, if Clark or anyone else can break through to white blue collar voters, then a a decent performance may be possible in Southern states. But, again, it isn't essential and the DLC propaganda about needing the South is to be avoided.