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Political Play of the Week

The power of swing voters

By Bill Schneider
CNN senior political analyst

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- This week, the House passed a bill that would bust the federal budget in order to cater to the needs of a powerful constituency. That's the farm bill.

So what happened next? Another powerful constituency was heard from -- loud enough to get the political Play of the Week.

A lot of promises were made about prescription drugs in the 2000 campaign.

"Among the folks who ran for president and Congress in 2000, about one out of every five of our TV ads was about doing something about prescription drugs," said Democratic Georgia Sen. Zell Miller. "And here we are two years later, and we still haven't done anything about prescription drugs."

Well, hold on. On Wednesday, House Republicans unveiled their proposal to give seniors prescription drug coverage under the Medicare program.

"House Republicans believe firmly that no senior should be forced to choose between putting food on the table or paying the rent or buying the medicine they need now," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

One hour later, Senate Democrats came up with their proposal.

In a campaign video released this week, Democrats show every intention of making prescription drugs an issue.

According to a recent Republican campaign memo, ``Republicans passing a prescription drug benefit would go a long way to leaving Democrats with very little on the table to try to use against us.''

Seniors are turning this year's midterm election into a bidding war for their votes. It's the political Play of the Week. And the bidding is open.

Seniors are becoming a swing vote.

In 1992, seniors voted for Bill Clinton by 11 points. They voted for Clinton by 7 points in 1996. By 2000, the senior vote was virtually tied: Gore 50, Bush 47.

And in House elections, seniors have swung back and forth between parties.

Swing voters have power -- just like the farm vote.




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