Weekly campaign highlights: Races in Penn., Iowa, Miss., and Mich.; Reports on voter-access issues

Published on September 14, 2012 at 4:47 AM · No Comments

As election day approaches, Kaiser Health News' Sarah Barr will sample news coverage each week from swing states around the country – how health policy developments, and other political issues, are playing in this year's vote.  

For instance, news outlets report on a hotly contested House race in Iowa where Medicare has become a flashpoint, as well as recent reports from the Senate races in Michigan and Missouri: 

Des Moines Register: In Campaign Fight Over Medicare, U.S. Rep Bruce Braley Looks To Bill Clinton For Backup
Medicare has become a flashpoint in the race for Iowa's first congressional district, with incumbent Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican challenger Ben Lange each accusing the other of undermining the popular health-care program. Lange accuses Braley of "gutting" the program by supporting the Affordable Care Act, which cuts $716 billion in future Medicare spending. Braley, in turn, highlights Lange's support for GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's plan to offer subsidies for the purchase of private health insurance, and suggests such a "voucher" program could raise costs and reduce benefits for seniors. Over the weekend, Braley called in reinforcements (Noble, 9/10).

Detroit Free Press: Hoekstra Launches New Campaign Ads Calling Stabenow Michigan's 'Worst Senator Ever'
Pete Hoekstra's launching a new attack against incumbent U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow with an online ad campaign calling her Michigan's worst senator ever. Hoekstra, a former congressman from west Michigan, is the Republican nominee running against Stabenow, a Democrat, who is vying for third 6-year term and appears to have a solid lead, according to several polls. Hoekstra's campaign held a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon to unveil his ad campaign, which can be viewed at www.worstsenator.com (Spangler, 9/10).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: McCaskill, Akin Push Outside Strategy
Republican Todd Akin asks supporters to help him fight the GOP's "corrupt party bosses." Democrat Claire McCaskill says she's "strong enough to tell the president to go fly a kite when I think he's wrong." In recent weeks, both candidates in Missouri's fast-changing U.S. Senate race have fashioned themselves as outsiders willing to go against their own party's establishment (Pistor, 9/8).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Pennsylvania's Eighth House District A Closely Watched Swing Zone
On the increasingly polarized political map, Pennsylvania's Eighth District is a true swing district. ... According to the website OpenCongress, (Republican Mike) Fitzpatrick broke with GOP leadership on 18 percent of his votes in the current session, sixth-most among House Republicans.... Democrats argue that inside the percentages, though, are votes for key pieces of a right-wing agenda. Fitzpatrick voted to repeal President Obama's health-care overhaul and back Paul Ryan's budget, which would increase tax breaks, largely for the wealthy and corporations, slash spending on programs for the poor, and, most controversially, overhaul Medicare. "I voted to secure Medicare for today's seniors and to strengthen it for the future," Fitzpatrick said, adding that (Democrat Kathy) Boockvar would side with Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, to "raid" Medicare. He pushed back against criticism that Ryan's plan would cost future seniors thousands of dollars, saying the savings would preserve the program. Boockvar also cited Fitzpatrick's votes to strip funding from Planned Parenthood and his cosponsorship of a bill restricting federal funding for abortion (Tamari, 9/4).

Meanwhile, in the post-convention atmosphere, Florida continues to be a key battleground for both presidential campaigns:  

Tampa Bay Times: Crowds And Post-DNC Poll Numbers Buoy Obama In Florida
President Barack Obama -; buoyed by higher poll numbers after his Democratic Party's convention -; journeyed to Florida for a two-day swing, bouncing from Tampa Bay to Central Florida on Saturday, and then the Space Coast and West Palm Beach on Sunday. In his wake, former President Bill Clinton [stumped] Tuesday in Miami and then in Orlando on Wednesday, the same day that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, [headed] to the Tampa Bay area. As the Nov. 6 elections draw near, expect the visits to get even heavier and rhetoric to get sharper -; specifically regarding Medicare and the economy, two key issues in a senior-heavy state menaced by high home foreclosures and unemployment rates (Caputo, 9/10).

Other reports detail how voter access issues are emerging as an important election-year dynamic: 

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Study Gives Virginia Mixed Reviews On Voter Protections
Virginia gets mixed reviews in a study of how well the election laws of 10 swing states protect voters from discrimination and intimidation when they try to cast a ballot. The study -; "Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote Against Wrongful Challenges" -; was released Monday by the nonpartisan voting rights groups Common Cause and Demos. The report concludes that Virginia "offers unsatisfactory protections for voters from wrongful challenges to their right to vote before Election Day, but better protections against wrongful challenges on Election Day and good protections for voters from intimidation by partisan poll watchers on Election Day, inside and outside the polls" (Nolan, 9/11). 

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Voter ID Case Goes To Pa. Supreme Court On Thursday
Challengers seeking to stop the new voter ID law from taking effect for the November elections will make their case Thursday before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It is the final venue for the lawsuit under the state Constitution after a lower court in August declined to halt the requirement that voters show certain forms of photo identification at the polls. The Pennsylvania law is only one example of the heightened voter identification requirements that have gained traction nationwide, but it has attracted notice for its location in a populous state that has been treated as a swing vote in presidential elections (Langley, 9/10).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Faces Key Question On Voter ID Appeal
Many opponents of the state's voter ID law, like Bea Bookler of Devon, were shocked when Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. upheld the law in a ruling last month. "My first reaction was unprintable," Bookler, 94, one of the plaintiffs trying to get the law overturned, said in a telephone interview. "My second reaction was to get in bed and say I don't want to be alive in a world where people are prevented from voting" (Warner, 9/11).

The Plain Dealer: Ohio Secretary Of State Jon Husted Rescinds Order Blocking Early Voting Hours, Asks Court For Stay During Appeal
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday rescinded a directive that blocked boards of election from setting in-person early voting hours for the final three days leading up to Election Day. But the Republican secretary still hopes to forestall a federal court's order that he set hours for voting during that run-up period to Nov. 6, asking to hold off at least until the state's request to appeal is decided.  Husted's action came in response to federal Judge Peter C. Economus, who ... ordered Husted to appear in his courtroom on Sept. 13 to explain why he issued a directive that appears to ignore Economus' recent court ruling (Fields, 9/7).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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