COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa - Democratic Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, seeking to distance himself from his leading rivals, touted his healthcare expansion package as doing more to cut costs and deal with root problems facing consumers "than any other proposal in this race."
Obama's two main rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination - Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina - have offered universal healthcare plans, while his stops short of mandating everyone have health insurance.
Obama routinely describes his rivals' plans as similar in thrust, but he began sharpening those differences as he opened his latest campaign swing yesterday.
"Cost is the number one reason that 47 million Americans do not have health insurance and thousands more are edging toward bankruptcy every day," Obama told a town hall-style meeting of about 350 people at a Council Bluffs high school. "That is wrong, and it's why my plan does more to cut the cost of health insurance than any other proposal in this race."
Obama sought to distance requirements in his rivals' plans that consumers must buy health insurance, saying that thinking is misplaced.
"What I have said repeatedly is that the reason people don't have health insurance is not because they don't want it, it's because they can't afford it," said Obama.
While Obama conceded plans for the leading rivals are similar, he said the insurance mandate is a key difference.
While Clinton has built a substantial lead in national surveys of the Democratic field, the race in Iowa among Obama, Clinton, and Edwards is extremely tight heading into the state's leadoff precinct caucuses, the traditional opening test of the presidential nominating season.
Thompson visits gun show
LADSON, S.C. White House hopeful Fred Thompson called his trip down an aisle of rifles, shotguns, and pistols at a gun show yesterday a day in paradise, and criticized his leading Republican opponents for past positions on gun control and abortion.
Talking to reporters after the gun show visit, Thompson singled out Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, and Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts.
Giuliani never met a gun-control bill he didnt like until he started to run for president and now I understand he very much approves of the Supreme Court taking jurisdiction of this Washington, D.C., case which most Second Amendment advocates think will establish that the Second Amendment means what it
says and grants individual rights to people to possess firearms, Thompson said.
A Giuliani campaign spokesman was quick to reply by e-mail to Thompsons criticism: Mayor Giuliani is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and believes our focus should be on making sure criminals are the ones who cant get guns.