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Health Care,  Economy Rival Iraq as US Election Issues


The war in Iraq figures to be a major issue in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. But, as VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington, health care and economic issues are also high on the list of voter priorities.

For months now, public opinion polls have indicated that concerns about health care and the economy rank right behind the war in Iraq.

Democratic presidential contender and senator, Hillary Clinton, is the latest to offer a comprehensive health care reform plan.

"We can talk all we want about freedom and opportunity, about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," she said. "But what does all that mean to a mother or father who cannot take a sick child to the doctor, or someone who cannot take the job of his dreams because it does not offer health care."

Other Democratic contenders, including Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards, have already presented their health care proposals.

The Republican presidential candidates are generally critical of what they see as too much government involvement in the health care plans proposed by Democrats.

But Republican presidential contender and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee acknowledges that concerns about the cost and quality of health care will be a major campaign issue in 2008.

"We really have an incredible problem because our system is upside down. It focuses on [medical] intervention at the catastrophic level of disease rather than really focusing on prevention [of illness]," Huckabee said.

Sarah Dutton conducts public surveys for CBS News. She says presidential candidates from both parties understand the public's worries about health care in the 2008 campaign.

"Sixty-six percent say they are very or somewhat dissatisfied with the quality of health care available here, and 81 percent are very or somewhat dissatisfied with the cost of health care," she said.

Presidential elections are often determined by the state of the U.S. economy, and 2008 is shaping up as no different. Two key components of that debate involve jobs and taxes.

As part of his economic plan, Democratic Senator and presidential contender Barack Obama is promising to cut taxes for middle class Americans if he is elected next year.

"Under my plan, 150 million Americans and their families will get a tax cut," he said. "And because this credit would be greater than their income tax bill, my proposal would effectively eliminate all income taxes for 10 million working Americans."

Concern about high taxes is an issue that usually helps Republican candidates.

In the Republican candidates' debates, presidential contender Rudy Giuliani often cites his record of cutting taxes when he was mayor of New York City.

"But the knee-jerk, liberal, Democratic reaction to raise taxes to get money very often is a very big mistake," Giuliani said.

Beyond concerns about Iraq and the economy, social issues could also play a key role in next year's election.

"The liberals are going to work hard for the Democrats, and the conservatives are going to work hard for the Republicans because they agree with their positions on abortion, gay rights, the death penalty, immigration and gun control, the things that drive emotions in American politics today," said Larry Sabato, who directs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

In addition to those issues, concerns about terrorism and national security also remain high on the list of voter priorities going into the 2008 campaign.

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