CHICAGO – John Kerry, dismissive of the nation's prescription drug law, argued on Tuesday that President Bush has offered little to help the elderly as the presumptive Democratic nominee looked to boost his wins with a four-state primary sweep.
The nomination locked up last week with the departure of chief rival John Edwards (search), Kerry focused on his November foe as he traveled from Florida, which joined Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas in voting Tuesday, to Illinois, site of a March 16 primary.
"It must be getting lonely for George Bush," Kerry said in an appearance with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (search). "It seems he's the last person left in America who actually believes his failed policies will ever work."
The four-term Massachusetts senator criticized the legislation, signed by President Bush last fall, that includes the most far-reaching changes in Medicare since the creation of the giant health care program for seniors in 1965.
Beginning in 2006, the law will give beneficiaries a prescription drug benefit (search) for the first time, with subsidies for low-income seniors to help offset premiums and other costs. The law also provides subsidies for insurance companies to offer private health care coverage to seniors as an alternative to the government-designed benefit they now receive.
Kerry immediately drew fire from House Speaker Dennis Hastert who faulted the Democrat for scaring "our greatest generation with misinformation about the voluntary and affordable" law that the Illinois Republican helped write.
Hastert also said Kerry missed 36 of 38 votes, including final passage, on Medicare legislation.
Illinois is among the states seeking to import cheaper drugs from Canada and Kerry blamed Bush.
"He stubbornly insists on tax cuts as he steadily loses jobs in this country," the Democrat said. "He stubbornly refuses to allow the importation of drugs from Canada while steadily the prices are going up."
At stake Tuesday in four states were 465 delegates to the Democratic National Convention (search) in July in Kerry's home town of Boston. The senator had more than 1,500 delegates, but based on the proportional allocation of the Democrats' delegate system, Kerry wasn't expected to reach the magic number of 2,162 until later this month.
In American Samoa, Kerry easily won with 83 percent of the vote to 17 percent for Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. The U.S. territory located about 2,300 miles south of Hawaii offered three delegates.
Kerry was awaiting primary results in Chicago, although there was no suspense about the outcome. The senator planned to travel to Washington for meetings later this week with former rivals Howard Dean (search) and John Edwards, brimming with confidence that they would be available to assist in his campaign.
"Dean has been very clear he wants to be part of the team, he wants to help win," Kerry said. "John Edwards has been very clear he wants to be part of the team."