The organization that lobbies for senior citizens’ issues hopes to influence the debate in the 2004 presidential campaign. A-A-R-P is sponsoring billboards, telling its members which questions to ask which candidates and hoping to assemble all the democratic candidates for a senior issues forum in October. Dan Power, the Iowa A-A-R-P president, says folks in Iowa have a tremendous opportunity “to bring the issues that impact the lives of older persons and their families to the forefront of the national dialogue.” Power says the group’s goal is to “encourage the candidates to move beyond soundbites and get on to specifics” about the key issues — a prescription drug benefit under Medicare, making Social Security solvent and ensuring Americans can have access to affordable health care. Power says older Americans vote in greater numbers than any other age group. He says according to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 67 percent of eligible voters over the age of 65 voted in the 2000 election. Powers says in Iowa, the two major political parties say voters over age 45 make up more than 60 percent of caucus-goers. Bruce Koeppel, A-A-R-P’s state director, says while the group doesn’t endorse candidates, the organization has been active in presidential politics since the 1980s. Koeppel says they feel this year might afford A-A-R-P its most significant opportunity ever to influence the campaign debate. Koeppel says A-A-R-P believes the next great debate will be about the future of Social Security. For example, the group is urging members to confront candidate Howard Dean, who has suggested the retirement age might have to be raised and confronting candidate John Kerry to ask what he means when he talks about “means testing” to determine who should be eligible for Social Security. A-A-R-P is hosting town hall forums in eight Iowa cities to focus on the prescription drug issue. The first is Wednesday in Waterloo.
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