Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt is launching an attack on a rival who is surging in the polls. Gephardt’s accusing former Vermont Governor Howard Dean of advocating changes in Medicare — the government-run health care program for seniors — that have been advanced by Republicans. Gephardt says Democrats can’t afford “ambiguity on the question of who will better protect our seniors.” Recent public opinion polls in Iowa, the state which holds the kick-off event of the 2004 campaign, show Dean pulling out ahead of Gephardt. Gephardt, who’s a Missouri Congressman, says Dean has called Medicare “one of the worst federal programs ever.” Gephardt says Dean has advocated cutting Medicare and turning it into a managed care program. Gephardt say that’s something he’ll never agree to. Gephardt’s mother died earlier this year, and Gephardt invoked her memory in the central point of the speech he delivered over the noon-hour in Des Moines. Gephardt says you cannot measure the worth of 95 years, but a son can resolve to never give up. Gephardt says Republicans will privatize Social Security and Medicare “over MY dead dead.” Howard Dean spoke with Iowa reporters by telephone this morning, and he expressed surprise at Gephardt’s assertions.Dean called Gephardt’s allegations “pretty silly.” Dean says “almost everybody” in Vermont has health insurance and he’s “the only one who’s running for President of the United States who has ever done anything like that.” Dean says he “can’t imagine what Dick is thinking about.” Dean, Gephardt and five other Democrats who’re seeking their party’s presidential nomination will speak in Indianola tomorrow afternoon at an event that organizers say will draw up to five-thousand Iowa Democrats.