Sen. Ted Kennedy pitched his fellow Massachusetts senator’s presidential campaign Friday in Phoenix, telling seniors Sen. John Kerry will protect Social Security and promising high school students Kerry will fight for better schools.
That’s right. Ted Kennedy. In Arizona. Campaigning.
Arizona is a state where Republican candidates often dress down their Democratic opponents by labeling them a "Ted Kennedy-style liberal." It is a tried and true ploy that often works, as evidenced by the fact that six of Arizona’s eight congressional seats, and both senate seats, are held by Republicans.
But Kennedy said his brand of liberalism is not out of place in Arizona, particularly for seniors worried about things like paying for health care and working families worried about their jobs in the sluggish economy.
"I’m ready for Arizona," Kennedy said after meeting with about 75 seniors at the historic Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix, which is now a residence for the elderly.
"People here are concerned, as they are in Massachusetts, about the high cost of tuition. They are very concerned about the escalating costs of health care. They are extremely distressed about the exploding cost of prescription drugs. These are issues that are a central concern to people all across the country and I think John’s got the leadership qualities to appeal to the people here in Arizona."
Kerry’s campaign strategies in Arizona appear to be paying off, according to a poll released Friday by the national polling company Zogby International.
That poll of likely voters in Arizona shows Kerry leading with 38 percent, far ahead of his closest rival, retired Gen. Wesley Clark who drew 17 percent.
The Westward Ho holds sentimental value for Kennedy. His brother, John F. Kennedy, stayed at the hotel while campaigning in Arizona for the presidency in 1960.
Kennedy blasted President Bush for using Social Security funds to help pay for deficit spending. Kerry will protect Social Security and refuse to use its accounts to fund federal red ink, Kennedy said.
He also ridiculed the prescription drug plan recently passed by Congress under pressure from Bush. Medicare was supposed to be a bond with seniors that if they paid into the system, their health care needs would be taken care of, Kennedy said. The prescription drug benefits passed under the president’s plan will not do that, he said.
"Every day we fail to provide you with affordable, dependable, reliable prescription drugs, we are violating that pledge, that commitment, that we gave you," Kennedy said. "That burns in my soul and it burns in the soul of John Kerry. That’s why we are going to fight to get a real prescription drug bill."
Kerry missed the Senate vote on the prescription drug bill, which is expected to cost about $540 billion over 10 years, according to newly revised figures.
Later, Kennedy delivered a less politically pointed speech to about 400 students and Kerry supporters at Cesar Chavez High School in Laveen, urging them to become politically active.
"You are deciding the future of yourselves and your families," Kennedy said. "You are deciding about whether we are going to make sure that colleges and universities are going to be open and available to children who have the ability, but perhaps not the resources, to be able to go to those."