As Al Gore and Bill Bradley continue to joust over the respective merits and costs of their competing health care plans, New Hampshire's Democratic voters are expressing a willingness to pay for expanded coverage but are divided on which candidate is more likely to raise their taxes to fund it, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The candidates' intense focus on health care is hitting a responsive chord in the Granite State. It's the issue chosen most often by likely Democratic voters as the most important.
And at least in the abstract, they say they are willing to spend a little to expand the system. Nearly nine in 10 Democratic primary voters say they would support providing health care coverage for all Americans, even if it means raising taxes. Only one in 10 would leave some Americans uncovered to hold taxes down.
Although experts put a higher price tag on Bradley's health care reform plan than on Gore's, New Hampshire's Democratic voters don't single Bradley out as the big spender in the race. Asked which Democratic candidate would be more likely to raise taxes to pay for social programs, about four in 10 chose Bradley, but a similar proportion chose Gore.
It's not all good news for the former New Jersey senator, however. Although Bradley has put health care front and center in the state, those voters who are most worried about the issue are no more likely to support him in the election than to support the vice president.
The poll also found that questions about Bradley's own health haven't been causing New Hampshire Democratic voters any heartache. Asked whether the fact that Bradley takes medication for an occasional irregular heartbeat made them concerned about his fitness to serve as president, nearly nine in 10 Democratic voters said his condition wasn't that serious.
GOP Drive Targets 10 Races
House Republican leaders are launching a third fund-raising drive aimed at funneling at least $1 million to 10 targeted races across the country, according to GOP officials.
House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) is planning to kick off Retain Our Majority Program III in the early spring, a project that calls upon lawmakers and lobbyists to steer funds to specified Republicans. While the initial two ROMP drives focused primarily on endangered incumbents, this round will include candidates in open seats as well as GOP challengers.
"Like Churchill said, we want to give them the tools so they can finish the job," said Pat Shortridge, executive director of Armey's political action committee, the Majority Leader's Fund. "We think our candidates are doing a great job delivering a message and building grass-roots networks in their district. We want to help with the financial side of it."
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) initiated the first ROMP effort early this year, while House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) oversaw the second campaign. Republicans said rank-and-file lawmakers in safe seats would participate in ROMP III, as well as downtown types such as former Armey spokesman Ed Gillespie and Dan Meyer, who served as chief of staff to then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
Staff writer Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.