Obama and Edwards Spar Over Health Care

By Lindsay Hamilton

Dec 15, 2007 6:45pm

ABC News’ Raelyn Johnson and Sunlen Miller Report: In a rare occasion, Democratic hopefuls Barack Obama and John Edwards are sparring with each other in their town hall meetings over the issue of negotiating healthcare. 

While campaigning Friday in Manchester, Iowa, Edwards reissued his criticism of Obama’s position to allow drug and insurance companies to have a seat at the table telling supporters, "I think that’ll never work. If that would work, it would have worked years ago.  If that worked, we’d have universal health care. We don’t." 

At a Saturday town hall in Independence, Iowa, Obama directly responded to Edwards saying, "He argued that, that, ‘you know, Barack, the problem is he thinks you can negotiate with insurance companies and drug companies,’" but added, "The notion that they will have no say so at all is just not realistic.  It’s just not true."

During his first campaign stop of the day Edwards reissued his dislike of Obama’s position.  "I like Sen. Obama and I respect him very much and I mean that.  But we have a very different approach to this issue," said Edwards during a town hall Dubuque, Iowa. "How long have the democrats been talking about universal healthcare?  It started with Harry Truman literally. I mean since 1993 what’s that 14 years now. So we’re going to nice our way to universal healthcare?"

With less than three weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses, most candidates are trying to focus on positive messages in what feels like their closing arguments to voters. And while both Obama and Edwards often highlight their differences in positions with Clinton, it’s not as often that they draw distinctions between each other.  Might this be the beginning of the end for the binary Obama vs. Clinton narrative that has been dominating the campaign coverage this cycle?

Sen. Obama is on a five day, 16 stop tour of small rural towns throughout Iowa, perhaps in an effort to take votes away from Edwards and become the number two choice.  Edwards, who has visited all 99 counties of Iowa is on a eight day tour of the state, traveling aboard the "Main Street Express" bus — emblazoned with the logo, "Not fueled by PAC’s or Washington Lobbyists Ever."

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