The Clinton campaign is using numbers as a weapon against the Obama campaign. Specifically, they’re pointing to Hillary Clinton’s proposal to cap health insurance premiums at 5 percent to 10 percent of income —a precise, measurable commitment she unveiled in an interview with The New York Times—as an easy contrast with Barack Obama’s health and economic proposals, which they call vague and arbitrarily conceived.
"Hillary’s provided a very detailed framework of how she would provide health care for every single American," said Neera Tanden, the campaign’s policy director. "She has provided more information than Senator Obama, she has made it clear through providing guidelines on the premium caps that she wants to make health care affordable to all Americans and she has given more specificity how she would lower costs for all Americans."
Back in 1992, George Stephanopoulos, then Bill Clinton’s deputy campaign manager, said "Specificity is a character issue this year.” Hillary Clinton clearly subscribes to that thinking, especially as she prepares to campaign in Pennsylvania, where she is counting on her base of white working-class voters—who don’t seem so enamored with Mr. Obama’s sometimes soaring rhetoric—to give her a significant and convincing victory.
In the interview published in today’s Times about health care and in an interview published in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about economics, Clinton has been using policy specificity as an answer to questions about her character raised by the Obama campaign, which has said she suffers from a "character gap," and to the media’s enthusiastic coverage of her inaccurate portrayal of a trip she made in Bosnia in 1996. She spoke to Bloomberg News last week about her stimulus package and is scheduled to speak to Al Hunt on Bloomberg television today to talk about the economy.
"One of the distinctions between these two campaigns," said deputy communications director Phil Singer, "Is that the Obama campaign is fueled by words and the Clinton campaign is fueled by solutions."
Singer disagreed with the notion that Clinton had been especially specific in the past few days. "She has been talking specifics throughout the course of this campaign," he said.
But the Clinton campaign has certainly intensified its attacks on Obama’s lack of specificity of late. Yesterday, they criticized his speech on the economy as unoriginal and vague. And they argue that his proposed measure to reduce insurance premiums by $2,500 for the typical family is not backed up by independent research and seems to be a number pulled out of a hat.
The Obama plan to lower costs does not include a cap on premiums. According to a memo the Obama campaign put out on May 29, 2007, the Obama campaign arrives at the $2,500 figure through premium-suppressing measures such as improved information technology, better disease management, reduced insurance overhead and reinsurance—government-backed protection for small businesses against extraordinary health care costs.
"Under our “best-guess” assumptions, we estimate that businesses will save $140 billion annually in insurance premiums. The typical family will save $2500 per year," the memo said.