The August 2001 announcement was "not a decision based solely on science but on the health care, ethical and legal landscape of embryo protection in this country," former Bush domestic policy adviser Jay Lefkowitz said in a recent interview. "The president isn't just taking a look at the science. If all we did was focus on the science, we would harvest the organs of people who are terminally ill or people on death row."
On a fact sheet titled "Embryonic Stem Cell Research," the administration reports that about $208 million has been spent on private research. That figure, however, is for all types of stem cell research, not just embryonic cells.
In a typical campaign year, it would be hard to imagine stem cells as a burning issue, said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. But this year, the two campaigns are searching for anything that could win over even a small number of undecided voters.
"Voters are not going to fully appreciate in a short campaign the complexity of the medical and biological implications of this," Madonna said. "But what is important is if Kerry can frame this as the Bush people opposing science, opposing medicine, hurting people who have a chance to live longer or cure diseases."
Unlike her son Ronald, Nancy Reagan has endorsed Bush despite their differences on embryonic stem cell research funding, a reminder that even though 70 percent of the public supports the research, Kerry cannot count on all their votes.
As a result, the Kerry team aims to broaden its pitch by arguing that Bush has chosen ideology over science.
Members of the recently formed Scientists and Engineers for Kerry intend to tour college campuses and research institutions making the case that it is in their interest to work on behalf of the Democratic ticket.
Tomorrow, prominent scientists, several patients and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) will critique the Bush policy; on Tuesday, members of Doctors for Kerry will appear in New Hampshire with former governor Jeanne Shaheen to highlight the medical promise of embryonic stem cells.