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Bush discusses health care in Cleveland visit



Published: Fri, January 28, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A White House spokesman said the visit to Cleveland had nothing to do with pushing legislation.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- President Bush's first trip of his second term took him back to a state where he's had some recent success.

A visit to Ohio on Thursday may indicate a strategy the president will use to pass legislation, said John Green, director of the University of Akron's Ray C. Bliss Institute for Applied Politics.

"There's a lot of talk that the president is going to use his campaign resources to campaign for his legislation," he said. "There's no better place to try that out than Ohio."

Bush defeated Kerry in Ohio by about 118,000 votes. The state's 20 electoral votes tipped the race to Bush when Kerry conceded the morning after the Nov. 2 vote.

Green said Bush may tap into the same power structure that helped get him elected. This time, he would ask those leaders to use their political power to help him influence Congress.

"We know that this structure is good for getting votes. We don't know whether it's good for getting votes in Congress," Green said.

Reaching out

Peter Schramm, director of the John Ashbrook Center for Public Policy at Ashland University, said Bush is promoting his agenda by reaching out to his constituency.

"Any president since Teddy Roosevelt has tried to do that," said Schramm, adding that it's always been a strength for Bush.

Like the president, the Republican Party is tapping into campaign resources, following up record fund raising for the president's re-election effort by asking donors to finance its efforts to get Bush's message to the public.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman sent a fund-raising e-mail Wednesday telling supporters donations are needed to help Bush advance his second-term agenda.

White House spokesman Jim Morrell said the visit to Cleveland had nothing to do with pushing legislation.

"The president's goal today was to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to highlight this important issue that doesn't always get the attention that it should," Morrell said.

Bush, wearing a dark top coat, waved amid 13-degree temperatures and partly sunny skies as he emerged from Air Force One at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport Thursday morning en route to the Cleveland Clinic to discuss the benefits of health care information technology.

Bush told the hospital audience that patient choices would lead to cost controls.

"The more choices people have in health care, the more likely it is that costs will be under control," Bush said.

Bush encouraged small-business owners to make use of tax-advantaged health care savings accounts to pay for medical costs. "This is a way to afford health care for your employees," Bush said.

Protesters

About one dozen war protesters stood one block from the hospital main entrance and held a banner that read "End the U.S. occupation of Iraq! Bring the troops home now. Money for jobs, health care, not for war!" One protester held an effigy of Bush with a Grim Reaper-style sickle and an image of an Abu Ghraib prisoner with the message, "Got democracy?"

Sharon Pacione, 59, of suburban Cleveland, said she considered the visit by Bush a display of White House arrogance because she felt Bush had stolen the election in Ohio.

"I actually consider this an arrogant visit to pop back in to the poorest city in the United States, where people have very little health care," she said. The Census Bureau has ranked Cleveland as the nation's poorest big city.

The country would be better off if the war funding was used for health care and other social programs, Pacione said. She held aloft a sign that read "Peace" and draped over her shoulders a placard that read "Grandmother 4 peace on Earth."

Bush's last trip to Ohio was on Election Day when he made a brief stop to thank supporters in Columbus. Thursday's trip was his 34th to Ohio as president.




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