LAS VEGAS (AP) - John Edwards said Saturday he will definitely
stay in the presidential race, trying to reassure voters and donors
that he can handle the dual pressure of the campaign and his wife's
At a Democratic presidential forum focused on health care,
Edwards pressed his rivals to provide a detailed plan to cover the
nation's uninsured - estimated at about 47 million - and describe
how they will pay for it. His chief competitors, Sens. Hillary
Clinton and Barack Obama, did not rule out the possibility that
they would follow his lead with a plan requiring a tax increase,
but they provided no specifics.
"I have not foreclosed the possibility that we might need
additional revenue in order to achieve my goal, but we shouldn't
underestimate the amount of money that can be save in the existing
system," Obama said when asked whether he would raise taxes to
reach his goal of universal coverage by the end of his first term.
"I can tell you I will do whatever it takes," the Illinois
Clinton did not say whether or not she is considering a tax
increase, but said she cannot see putting more money into what she
described as a current broken system. She said she is committed to
succeeding where she failed with the health care plan she crafted
in her husband's first term in the White House.
"We're going to change the way we finance the system by taking
away money from people who are doing well now," said Clinton, who
represents New York in the Senate. Asked who she was referring to,
she mentioned insurance companies.
The forum was sponsored by the Service Employees International
Union and the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a
Washington-based policy group.
It came two days after Edwards announced that the breast cancer
that his wife thought she had beaten had returned, this time in her
bone. He pointed out his wife, Elizabeth, sitting in the front row
and said they both understand that dealing with their personal
struggle will require "a focus and a maturity."
"I'm definitely in the race for the duration," he said. "This
is not the first challenge that Elizabeth and I have been
Edwards pointed out that they lost their teenage son, Wade, 11
years ago in a car accident - something that he didn't talk about
much when he ran for president four years ago.
"I know because of the nature of the woman I'm married to that
she will be there every single step of the way," he said. "We
take our responsibility to serving this country very seriously."
Edwards said he and his wife are getting too much credit for
forging ahead when millions of women are enduring the same struggle
and the additional worry of getting the necessary care.
"One of the reasons that I want to be president of the United
States is to make sure that every woman and every person in America
gets the same things that we have," Edwards said. His plan would
require employers to provide insurance and individuals to have it
at a cost of $90 billion to $120 billion.
Edwards said any politician who says they can provide universal
health care and other promises while ending the federal deficit are
not being honest.
"They've probably got a bridge in Brooklyn they want to sell
you, too," Edwards said to laughter and applause. "I just don't
think it can be done."
No other candidate has given a cost estimate. New Mexico Gov.
Bill Richardson, however, said he could provide universal care in
his first year as president without raising taxes.
Richardson said his plan would include a tax credit for
low-income people who need coverage and prevention strategies such
as a nationwide smoking ban like the one he signed in New Mexico.
He said he would pay for his plan in large part by ending the war
in Iraq and shifting the military spending to human needs - an idea
that won loud applause.
Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd said his plan would require a tax
increase by repealing President Bush's cuts to the top 2 percent of
Video of the candidate forum was fed live over the Internet. The
moderator, Time magazine's Karen Tumulty, took questions from
Internet viewers as well as prescreened questions from union
members in the audience.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel
promoted a single-payer universal health care system.
Obama was challenged by an audience member who said she had gone
to the senator's Web site looking for health care reform
information and found only plans about HIV and lead poisoning. He
said he would have a detailed plan in a couple months, after he has
a chance to discuss it further with experts and front-line workers.
He said he wants to require that employers either provide
coverage or help their workers pay to get their own and favors
cutting costs through prevention, management and technology
Clinton, who received the warmest reception from the audience
with several interruptions for applause, said her deadline for
universal health care would be two terms in office. She said part
of the reason her plan failed in the early 1990s was that people
with coverage did not understand that it would not change. "We're
going to do a better job explaining this time," she said.
Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler in Washington contributed
to this report.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)