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Candidates Talk Policy to Texas, Ohio Voters

February 28, 2008 at 6:20 PM EDT
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Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., made appeals Thursday to Texas and Ohio voters before their March 4 primary contests. Talk on the stump focused on health care, economy and Iraq war policy. Kwame Holman recaps the day's campaigning.

JIM LEHRER: Now, what the presidential candidates had to say heading toward the big Texas and Ohio primaries. NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman reports.

KWAME HOLMAN: With just five campaign days remaining, Hillary Clinton met with supporters in the southern Ohio border town of Hanging Rock. Her message there was more needs to be done to help people get by, and that starts with universal health care.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: Part of the reason why we have to cover everybody — children and parents — is because you can’t expect to take care of a child if you have a sick parent.

And you can’t afford for a parent, who is the breadwinner, not to have preventive care and health care, because what happens oftentimes is that, when a parent gets sick, that affects the whole family.

I bet every one of us has seen that, where somebody maybe has an accident on the job, or a car accident, or comes down with some illness. Everybody in the family is affected if that mother or father can’t be taken care of.

Well, when a child is sick, it also affects the whole family. Taking your child back and forth to Cincinnati with the price of gas, there’s no telling how much it costs.

I was looking at the gas prices as I was driving this morning, you know, and I saw some pretty high prices, you know, $3.48, $3.68. That’s getting way up there.

And, of course, oil is now $100 a barrel on some days, and we’ve got to help people with their transportation costs, particularly in rural areas. What are people supposed to do? Well, they have to commute to work or they might have to drive to hospital or some other necessary trip.

And, of course, you’re dependent upon your car. You know, if your car breaks down — you know, one of the gentlemen this morning who told me he commuted 71 miles says, you know, he holds his breath about buying the gas, but he holds his breath all the time about, you know, maybe his transmission going out or something that is going to cause an extra expense.

All of this is connected. And too often people look at these problems like they’re individual problems. “Oh, it’s so sad people don’t have health insurance.” “Oh, it’s so sad people don’t have child care.” “Oh, it’s so sad that people are paying so much for gas.”

It is all connected. You know, we’ve got to get incomes up, and we’ve got to deal with these costs, so that people can get more money in their pocket to take care of a lot of these expenses.

But if you don’t have health insurance for everyone, we’re never going to get out of this. We’re just going to keep running around in circles.

Addressing economic concerns

KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, Barack Obama campaigned in Beaumont, Texas, at what was billed as an economic town hall meeting, and turned his attention to the president's comments earlier in the day.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: When I hear George Bush say that he didn't think we're in a recession, and when he says -- when somebody tells him that gasoline prices might reach four dollars a gallon, and he says, "That's interesting, I didn't know that" -- this is just today -- that it's a sign that we have a Washington that is out of touch and hasn't been listening to the stories of ordinary people.

We are not standing on the brink of a recession because of forces beyond our control. It was not an inevitable part of the business cycle; it was a failure of leadership in Washington.

A Washington where George Bush hands out billions of tax cuts to the wealthiest few for eight long years, while ordinary workers are seeing their incomes decline in real terms; a Washington where John McCain promises to make those same tax cuts permanent, embracing the central principles of the Bush economic program, apparently unwilling to acknowledge or unaware that that economic agenda has failed the American people.

It's a Washington that's thrown open its doors to lobbyists and special interests who've riddled our tax code with loopholes that let corporations avoid paying taxes, even though you're paying more.

They've used money and influence to kill health care reform at a time when 47 million people don't have it and at a time when half of all bankruptcies are caused by medical bills. And they've rigged our bankruptcy laws to make it harder to climb out of debt.

They don't represent ordinary Americans, which is why they don't fund my campaign; they will not run my White House; and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I'm president of the United States of America.

Debating Iraq war policy

KWAME HOLMAN: John McCain was in Houston, where he stepped up criticism of Obama's Iraq views.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: You may have noticed in the debate the other night, which I did not watch, that Senator Obama stated that he would, if al-Qaida was establishing a base in Iraq, after we left Iraq, as he wants us to do immediately, then he would consider going back to Iraq.

I responded to that by staying that, "Well, they are in Iraq. They're called al-Qaida in Iraq."

And so let me get this right. Senator Obama wants to leave immediately from Iraq, but if al-Qaida is in Iraq, then he would consider going back. Obviously, that's not logical.

In fact, we are succeeding in Iraq, something that both he and Senator Clinton refuse to acknowledge. We are succeeding militarily, and we are succeeding politically.

So yesterday Senator Obama said, "Well, we shouldn't have gone in, in the first place, and if we hadn't gone in, in the first place, we wouldn't be facing this problem." Well, that's history. That's the past. That's talking about what happened before.

What we should be talking about is what we're going to do now. And what we're going to do now is continue this strategy which is succeeding in Iraq and we are carrying out the goals of the surge.

The Iraqi military are taking over more and more responsibilities. The casualties are down. And we will be able to withdraw and come home, but we will come home with honor.

And if we do what Senator Clinton and Senator Obama want, and that's declare a date for withdrawal, then al-Qaida will tell the world that they defeated the United States of America and we will be fighting again in that region and in the rest of the world, and they will follow us home.

And that's not my idea. That's theirs, if you read what bin Laden and many of the others, Zawahiri and all the others are saying.

There's a lot at stake here, my friends. There's a great deal at stake here in our nation's security. And I've been involved in every major national security issue for the last 20 years. I believe I have the experience and the knowledge and the judgment to lead this country.

KWAME HOLMAN: Mike Huckabee also campaigned in Texas today. The three leading candidates all are in the Lone Star State tomorrow, Clinton and Obama in San Antonio, McCain in Austin.