Gore Looking Fitter Than Bush on Health Care

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Any good fighter knows an opening when he sees it. Anybody expect that premium political pugilist, Al Gore, to miss this one?

"The specifics are going to be worked out in the near future," said Dick Cheney when asked, on the Sunday shows, about what Bush proposes for a prescription drug benefit for seniors. "Work is underway."

Ding ding! The Gore camp had already declared this crucial week — the last one before Labor Day, when bounces settle and poll numbers tend to lock in at near-November levels — to be health care week. And here were Bush/Cheney with their guard down in Gore's favorite kind of fight: the kind fought over specifics. A Newsweek poll has Gore hanging onto his post-convention lead. Does it get any better than this for the veep?

"I'm waiting for the plan. The ad says there's a plan. Where is the plan?" Gore railed in Monday's New York Times. "What's good for the American people is to have an adult, intelligent discussion of the specifics of these issues."

That discussion goes a lot smoother when you're the only one having it. The Bush response was limited to former running-mate hopeful Sen. Bill Frist, a genuine doctor who's got a bipartisan bill on prescription drug benefits that somehow Bush hasn't had time to read/support yet.

Gore, meanwhile, thinks he's got a winner. Polls show voters overwhelmingly think Gore would do a better job as president in the health-care arena, and he's not resting on his laurels. Monday, Gore was down talking health in a state he would dearly love to steal, Florida, with that state's dominant constituency: old folks. In case you didn't know, he's been fighting for seniors all his public life.

"All my public life, I've stood up to the big drug companies and fought against drug company price-gouging," Gore told a seniors' roundtable in Tallahassee Monday. "As president you can count on me to take on the powerful forces so you can get the prescription drugs and coverage you deserve."

Of course, Gore's first powerful force is Bush, though he's looking less of a force by the day. And if Bill Bradley walked right into Gore's trap in the primaries by offering too many specifics, the Texas governor isn't helping himself by offering too little. Sure, he's got Gore punching at air — but air is not the stuff many look for in a president.