WASHINGTON - Al Gore's week-long campaign blitz on prescription drugs concluded last Friday at a rally featuring senior citizens returning from Canada with bags full of cheap U.S.-made medicines. The campaign spectacle, and the media traction that it has gained, confirmed that the Democratic presidential candidate has successfully transformed the debate over how best to provide Medicare prescription drugs into a more global drumbeat about driving down the price of drugs.

The focus on prices is great politics - it broadens the appeal of the "wedge" issue from older voters who soon expect to benefit from a Medicare drug program to the much larger number in the middle class who politicians are convinced have decided that medical care is too expensive, especially drugs.