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Clinton's new gambit on healthcare

After a famous failed effort in the '90s, she unveils her proposal for healthcare reform Monday.

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In a presidential primary season dominated by the Iraq war, the No. 1 domestic issue roars onto center stage Monday as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) of New York unveils her proposal for healthcare reform.

For Senator Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, the issue is fraught with risks. In 1993 and 1994, she oversaw the failed effort by her husband, former President Clinton, to remake healthcare in America. The old Clinton plan, which would have mandated coverage for all employees through health maintenance organizations, was lampooned by opponents as a government takeover. Mrs. Clinton was also criticized for operating in secrecy.

Now, the former first lady is seeking to turn that failure into a positive – and, so far, is succeeding. A recent poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation shows that, among all the presidential candidates, voters see Clinton as placing the biggest emphasis on healthcare. She tops the list with a plurality of 27 percent, followed by Sen. Barack Obama (D) of Illinois with 6 percent. Among Democrats, Clinton is also by far the candidate seen as best representing their views on healthcare, with 35 percent. Among Republican voters, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was the top choice, with 8 percent.

"Senator Clinton starts off with an edge on health," says Dean Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. That's "not because the voters have scrutinized the details of anyone's plan, and obviously she's only released pieces of hers so far, but just because they so closely associate her with the issue."


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