Key Women Clinton Supporters: McCain Won't Get Our Vote
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John McCain has made it clear that his campaign intends to aggressively court supporters of Hillary Clinton, including her major base of female voters.
Now top female Clinton supporters have a message for McCain: not so fast.
"The McCain campaign has been talking about the mythology of trying to pick up HRC supporters," says Ellen Malcolm, president of EMILY'S List. "This is a pipe dream, because he's out of touch with their lives and the issues they care about."
"We are here to sound the alarm bell," said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of South Florida on a conference call. "We are going to work hard to make sure that John McCain is not allowed to pull the wool over women's eyes one more day."
Wasserman Schultz pointed to McCain's opposition to universal health care, universal pre-K, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and raising the minimum wage as some of the many reasons female voters will rally around Barack Obama come November. "As a young woman in America who is a mom with three young kids, there is a real fear that John McCain will be dangerous for women," Wasserman Schultz said. "He will impede our progress."
Malcolm and Wasserman Schultz referenced a new Gallup poll showing Obama leading McCain by 13 points among female voters, a six-point bump since Clinton exited the race and endorsed Obama. Gallup found that Obama is now "matching Clinton's performance among women versus McCain." In addition, Obama leads McCain among women 50 and older -- a key chunk of Clinton's base -- by six points, after trailing McCain among that group when Clinton remained in the race.
McCain's ratings with female voters are currently well below George W. Bush's 2004 numbers: Bush lost female voters to John Kerry by just three points by appealing to "security moms." And among non-college-educated white women -- another key segment of Clinton's base -- Bush beat Kerry by 19 points. In '06, Democrats cut that margin to five, a big reason why they recaptured Congress. If Obama can match that '06 number, there's a good chance Democrats will recapture the White House.
Wasserman Schultz admitted that many Clinton supporters are still in a "period of mourning." According to Malcolm, "There is a lot of anger about sexism in the media and the ongoing unwillingness to say anything positive about Clinton and her campaign. But that is about the media, and I don't think that transfers to Senator Obama."
EMILY'S List is planning to mobilize female voters on behalf of Obama in key battleground states, just as they did for Kerry, Gore and Clinton. An endless war in Iraq, skyrocketing gas prices, tax breaks for oil companies and a faltering economy are issues that deeply concern female voters. If Obama emphasizes these topics, Clinton supporters say, he can win over pro-Clinton skeptics. "The proof will be in the pudding," Wasserman Schultz says, "as he campaigns across the country and talks about these issues that matter to women. This is what will warm women to him."
Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation, covering national politics and the 2008 election, and an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute.