Elizabeth Edwards Stumps on Rural Issues

Elizabeth Edwards (search) touted a Democratic commitment to bolster rural health care Sunday, arguing that both nominee John Kerry (search) and running mate John Edwards (search) have long ties to rural America that give them credibility.

Mrs. Edwards said her husband and Kerry virtually moved to Iowa when they campaigned for Iowa's leadoff caucuses, and have nurtured close ties to the state.

"They didn't come to just the big cities like Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, they came to small towns all across this state," said Mrs. Edwards. "They didn't just talk to you — they listened."

She used prominent rural icons to focus attention on rural America, campaigning first at the Clay County Fair in Spencer and then appearing before about 4,000 people at Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry on the balloon field outside Indianola.

The Harkin Steak Fry is traditionally used to energize Democratic activists less than two months before an election the polls show is too close to call in Iowa.

Mrs. Edwards said the health care plan unveiled by Kerry and Edwards would save the average citizen $1,000 a year.

Republican National Committee spokesman David James said Bush has nothing to apologize for regarding his record on health care. "The policies of President Bush have saved Medicare," James said. "We passed the most comprehensive reform in history. "

Kerry's health care plan essentially calls for the federal government to take over financing the most expensive cases of illness and injury, a move he says would lower premiums for others. He plans to finance the effort by repealing that portion of the tax cut passed by Congress that goes to those making $200,000 or more a year.

Republican critics argue Kerry's proposal would actually cost far more than he estimates and would force a middle class tax hike.