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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Gingrich, "Niche" Issues, and Alzheimer's

Philip Rucker writes in The Washington Post:
Newt Gingrich thinks he can revive his debilitated campaign by talking about Alzheimer’s. So at a private fundraiser last week in Newport Beach, Calif., he devoted much of his speech to the disease.

In the audience, it turned out, were four members of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Orange County chapter.

“This is great,” they later told Gingrich, according to an aide. “You get it!”

And with that, the former House speaker — whose campaign has seemed all but dead since his top advisers quit en masse three weeks ago — had won four new supporters.

For most presidential candidates, Alzheimer’s is a third- or fourth-tier subject, at best.

But as Gingrich sees it, Alzheimer’s, as well as other niche topics such as military families’ concerns and pharmaceutical issues,are priorities for passionate patches of the American electorate. By offering himself as a champion of pet causes, Gingrich believes he can sew together enough narrow constituencies to make a coalition — an unconventional one, yes, but a coalition nevertheless.
James Pinkerton offers some detail:
Gingrich’s basic idea can be stated in five words: Cure is cheaper than care. In a speech to the Brookings Institution last month, Gingrich noted that that AD costs the U.S. $183 billion a year, and that the cost is rapidly mounting as our population is aging — to a total of some $20 trillion by 2050. Yet if we could slow down the onset of AD by just five years, on average, we could cut those future expenses in half.
A MetLife survey suggests that Alzheimer's is a bigger "niche" than one might think:
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the second most feared disease among American adults, behind only cancer. When asked which of five major diseases they are most afraid, 31 % said Alzheimer’s, while 41% said cancer. Heart disease and stroke were named by 8% each, while only 6% said they fear diabetes most.
  • Currently, more than five million people have Alzheimer’s. That number is expected to rise sharply as the Baby Boom generation reaches retirement age. 44% of adults indicate they have family members or friends with Alzheimer’s.
Gingrich has also indicated an interest in autism. The combination could be potent. Just as older adults worry that they or their loved ones will suffer from Alzheimer's, younger adults worry about autism in children.