There's a fresh new face on the White House campaign trail, and it's not the smiling visage of junior Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (D).
Susie Flynn, the latest presidential contender to hit the airwaves, is a Washington outsider whose frustration with the government's handling of one major issue -- children's health care -- has moved her to enter the race. There's only one problem: She's 10 years old.
She's also not a real person. "Susie" is the fictional face of the Children's Defense Fund's Healthy Child Campaign, an effort to raise awareness about the 9 million U.S. children who lack health insurance.
"Is there one good reason why our rich nation can't provide all children health insurance?" Flynn asks a statue of Abraham Lincoln in a new TV ad. In another, she whispers into the ear of a man standing outside the White House. Children who lack health care "are ignored because they don't have a voice and can't vote," the man says, relating Flynn's message to viewers. "Please use yours to elect someone who will give every child the health insurance they need."
The campaign, aimed at both policy makers and the public at large, was launched in February with print ads posted in Washington, D.C.'s Union Station, and four different TV spots featuring the young "candidate" began airing nationally on CNN last week. All of the spots direct viewers to electsusie.com, which features "real stories" of children living without health insurance and a petition drive that has so far yielded over 15,000 signatures.
"What better way to achieve this than by having a child act as the voice for the nine million children that do not have one?" Char Roseblade, a spokeswoman for CDF media consultant Fallon Worldwide, explained in a release. "Adults and politicians should feel embarrassed that it takes a child to drive awareness and encourage involvement to solve this problem."
CDF press secretary Nayyera Haq said Flynn's campaign will continue "until another leader picks up this issue," and "Susie would be delighted to work with any adult willing to step forward."
"Universal health care" has become a popular buzzword on the presidential campaign trail and is catching on in the halls of Congress as well. Sen. HillaryRodham Clinton, D-N.Y., recently teamed up with Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., on a bill that would guarantee access to health coverage for every child in the country.
But the Children's Defense Fund has endorsed a different bill -- the All Healthy Children's Act sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va. Haq said Scott's bill goes "above and beyond" all other proposals by "streamlining" current Medicaid programs and the State Children's Health Insurance Program to ensure coverage for all children as well as pregnant mothers.