- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2000

Both political parties have been saying women will be decisive in the November elections, but the party that recognizes that women are not a monolithic bloc will have the edge, a top Republican official said Thursday.

"As we look at women, we know better than anyone else that women are not one size fits all," said Patricia Harrison, co-chairman of the Republican National Committee.

"That's something I wish bathing-suit designers would figure out," she added, drawing laughter and applause from about 800 female business leaders, lawmakers and party officials from around the country.

Married women are telling pollsters that moral values are their first political priority, she said in a keynote address on the third day of the third annual Republican Women Leaders Forum.

To illustrate the differences among women, she noted that Hispanic women agree on the importance of moral values, but put education at the top of their priorities list.

"African-American women think the economy and stopping crime are the two highest priorities, while older women put saving Social Security at the top," she said.

Not surprisingly, Mrs. Harrison told the partisan audience that Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee, has incorporated these various priorities into his record as governor and into his campaign in ways that appeal to the various components of the women's vote.

He did this, she said, by marrying free-market and private-sector solutions with government responsibilities and initiatives.

The audience indicated its agreement and enthusiasm for Mr. Bush with repeated applause.

Kate O'Beirne, Washington editor of National Review, drew smiles and nods from the female audience when she said during a forum session that Vice President Al Gore was doing poorly among women because he is like their worst image of a blind date.

Calling women the "heart and soul" of his party, RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson Thursday emphasized to the female leaders what he said are the shared ideals of men and women in his party "the core values that make us Republicans: freedom, limited government, individual responsibility and opportunity."

Former RNC Chairman Haley Barbour, who addressed the female leaders on Wednesday, said the Texas governor's "political appeal to women is already evident by the fact he leads in the polls among women voters, where four years ago [Bob] Dole was about 20 points behind among women voters."

Republican pollster Linda DiVall told the female leaders that her survey of voters shows that "Al Gore has a gender problem on his hands."

"Bush leads him by 44 percent to 37 percent among all voters and by 41 percent to 39 percent among all women," she said.

She said voters identify more with Mr. Bush's "desire to restore honesty and integrity in the White House" than with the peace and prosperity that Mr. Gore claims credit for.

Asked to sum up the three-day meeting in which she participated, Josette Shiner said she saw "emerging from this group a real, forward-thinking conservatism, one that looks at how government can work with the market forces to improve the quality of life."

"I met women CEOs and political leaders who felt strong that the Republican Congress has not received the kudos it deserves for what it did to create the booming economy we have," said Mrs. Shiner, former president of Empower America and now managing director of a major Wall Street e-business firm. "In general, these women leaders were very supportive of the direction that the party and George W. Bush are heading us."

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