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Giuliani's Health Care Plan: Making Him A Stronger Candidate?

Tuesday, 31 Jul 2007 | 9:40 AM ET
Rudy Guiliani
AP
Rudy Guiliani

I’m in Rochester, NH with Rudy Giuliani.This morning at a town meeting he’ll describe some new elements of his health care policy, which I described in an article in this morning’s Wall Street Journal.

In an interview with me yesterday, the former New York City mayor described development of the traditionally-anemic market for individually-purchased health insurance policies as the centerpiece of his plan. Through provision of a new tax deduction of up to $15,000 per family, Giuliani said his administration would double the number of Americans buying health coverage on their own to 30 million or more. Past that potential “tipping point,” Giuliani argues, prices for individual policies will markedly decline and allow “millions” of the 45-million Americans who now lack coverage to afford it.

His plan offers no coverage mandate, which distinguishes him both from Democrats and from his Republican rival Mitt Romney, who pushed through a coverage mandate as governor of Massachusetts and who leads in New Hampshire now. But as a result Giuliani concedes his approach may not cover all the 45-million Americans without health insurance.

Giuliani's Health Care Prescription
Republican presidential candidate Rudy giuliani rolls out his heakth care plan in New Hampshire today, with CNBC's John Harwood

That’s one potential general election target for Democrats next year; another is Giuliani’s embrace, in the name of opposing big-government, of President Bush’s threat to veto a big expansion of the children’s health insurance program in Congress. But after watching Giuliani in a town meeting a few miles up the road in Laconia, it’s clear to me that he could be a formidable general election candidate.

Though Giuliani has a reputation for being arrogant and acerbic, he was periodically funny and self-deprecating in acknowledging some past failures as mayor. He struck an Obama-esque note in pledging to dial-back Washington’s vitriol level and seek compromise with Democrats. He was also tough, lampooning last week’s Obama-Clinton foreign policy disputeas an argument between weak Democrats over whether to invite Fidel Castro and other tyrants to their inaugural balls.

Whether Giuliani as president could actually deliver--on policy or political tone--is another matter. George W. Bush struck similarly conciliatory notes in his 2000 campaign. But there’s a good chance Giuliani could fulfill one pledge he made to the hotel-meeting room crowd of around 75 people: put every state in play against the Democratic nominee in November 2008.

Questions? Comments? Write to politicalcapital@cnbc.com.