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POLICY/POLITICS: My quick view on the politics of Medicare in the campaign, with brief UPDATE

There was a lot of fuss about Medicare and health care in the last few days, particularly brought up by Bush. I think this is a serious blunder on his part. Given Swift Boat and Kerry’s non-position (or actually he should just use Bill Maher as spokesman because he explains it well) on Iraq, why is Bush trying to change the subject?

Here’s why I think Bush is being politically dumb here. If you look at these polls, things are still very close, and the Bush convention bounce seems to be over. Now if you play with the electoral college (try here) basically if Kerry wins Florida and Pennsylvania, then Ohio, Missouri, etc, don’t matter. What is special about Florida and Pennsylvania? They are the two oldest populations in America. Why did Clinton win Florida in 1996? Because he scared seniors into believing that the Republicans would kill Medicare as seniors knew it. Now, premiums are going up, and HHS’ own data is showing that the cost of the drug benefits to seniors will consume most of their social security checks, and seniors hate the Medicare bill, especially the ban on drug importation.

So let’s play it out. Seniors vote at roughly one and a half times the rate of those under 65s. Four in ten seniors say that they’ll vote based on health care. While 12.1% of the US population is over 65, the number is 18.1% for Florida, and 15.8% for Pennsylvania’s. So essentially the more voters focus on health care, the more likely it is that they’ll vote for Kerry, and each one of those votes in magnified by 1.5 X 1.5 for seniors in those two states. (or to be really pedantic only 1.5 x 1.25 for Pennsylvania).

So why is Bush bringing this up? I don’t know. If I were him I’d go back to terra, terra, terra. Otherwise Kerry can keep bringing up this kind of stuff.

UPDATE: A correspondent tells me why Bush is bringing this up. Karl Rove apparently believes that you should attack the other guy’s strength, and so that’s why Bush is attacking Kerry on health care. With that strategy, I don’t think Rove would last long as a coach in the NFL, and he hasn’t won a national campaign yet (after all tying is like kissing your sister), but Arianna Huffington thinks that Kerry should take Rove’s advice and come after Bush on terrorism and Iraq.

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