Gephardt makes second campaign stop in OKC

Wednesday, July 2nd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt brought his Democratic presidential campaign back to Oklahoma Wednesday, saying his ideas on critical issues, such as health care, will allow him to succeed.

In a telephone interview before a fund-raiser in Oklahoma City, Gephardt said his health care program will resonate with voters everywhere, including midwestern states that Democrats must win to defeat President George Bush.

The program would pick up 60 percent of the health insurance cost of small businesses.

``It helps every person in the country,'' he said. ``It brings together the interests of business and labor.''

Democratic rivals such as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry are expected to lead the pack of nine Democratic candidates in fund raising for April, May and June.

Gephardt, who has not yet released his fund-raising figures for the quarter, said the top-tier candidates are ``bunched about the same place when you look at both money in the bank and what we raised.''

Thus, he said, the eventual winner of the Democratic race will be decided ``not on money but on who has the best ideas, who runs the best campaign and who can project both a good message and be a good messenger of that message.''

He said his proposals providing ``bold alternatives'' to Bush policies on health care, education, energy and the environment will help overcome the financial advantage the GOP incumbent will have in his re-election bid.

Gephardt finished third in Oklahoma in the 1988 Democratic presidential race, when Oklahoma was among a group of states holding the first ``Super Tuesday'' primary in mid-March.

He said he simply ran out of money prior to Super Tuesday after getting off to a good start by winning the Iowa caucus and finishing second in New Hampshire.

He said he was doing his best to raise enough money to run an effective campaign and get off to another good start in 2003.

Oklahoma will be one of four states holding its primary on Feb. 3, a week after New Hampshire, and Gephardt said a strong showing in those states will be important to his chances.

Missouri is among the states that moved up their elections to the first week in February in order to have a greater impact on the presidential selection process.

Gephardt campaigned in Oklahoma in mid-April, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to do so since 1992.

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards also have campaigned in Oklahoma and former Florida Gov. Bob Graham is planning a stop in the state on Monday.