Democrats Tops in Health Care Money

The Associated Press
Saturday, July 28, 2007; 11:59 AM

WASHINGTON -- Health care professionals are giving Democrats a second look after more than a decade of opening their wallets in favor of Republican candidates.

The shift in giving is apparent in the presidential contest, where leading Democrats are raising more cash from doctors, nurses and other caregivers than are Republicans.

Two main factors are at play: Democrats now control Congress and Democratic presidential candidates are raising more money than are Republicans.

"The health care industry wants to influence the majority in Congress and ... they are reading the same tea leaves as everyone else that suggest the Democrats could have good results in the 2008 elections," Jonathan Oberlander, a health politics expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in an e-mail.

No one better represents this realignment than Hillary Rodham Clinton. She leads all presidential candidates with $700,000 in donations from doctors and nurses, according to an Associated Press analysis of Federal Election Commission data for the first six months of 2007.

The three leading fundraisers in the Democratic field _ Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards _ have combined to amass nearly $2 million from health professionals, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The top three GOP fundraisers _ Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain _ have raised a total of nearly $1.9 million from the health sector.

If the pattern holds, Clinton's success could be a political turning point _ and one full of irony.

As first lady, she led a failed effort by her husband's administration in the early 1990s to overhaul the health system. By 1994, health professionals and the organizations that represent them were beginning to tilt Republican. This pattern continued throughout Republican control of Congress from 1995 until last year.

Buttressed by well-financed political action committees, physicians in particular preferred Republicans by at least a 3-2 margin in federal races from 1996 to 2006. President Bush did even better in 2004, getting $6.7 million to Democratic nominee John Kerry's $4.1 million, according to the center.

Four years earlier, Bush outraised Democratic rival Al Gore among health professionals by 7-to-2.

The message, according to MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, was clear: no more attempts at overhauling the health care economy.

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