- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2008

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Female Democratic voters are uncommitted in their choice of a presidential candidate, according to a new straw poll — a sign that contenders have their work cut out for them before Tuesday’s primary.

“More than 200 were surveyed, and among them 50 percent of the women were undecided, and the rest were so dispersed among the candidates that there was no clear front-runner,” said Nancy Bennett, one of the organizers of the poll conducted by the Lifetime Network’s Every Woman Counts campaign.

The straw poll was taken after a forum, to which several candidates sent surrogates to deliver their messages.

Actress Madeleine Stowe spoke on behalf of former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, saying he has changed the discourse of politics. Miss Stowe also noted that Mr. Edwards is the only Democratic presidential candidate who does not support nuclear energy — an important point in a state where the environment is the top issue.

Betsy Myers, the campaign-operations chief for Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, said Mr. Obama’s leadership skills are the main reason she joined his campaign and the reason why voters should choose him.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s record speaks for itself, said longtime Democratic operative Anne Lewis, a campaign adviser for the New York senator.

But the straw poll showed that most of the women in attendance were not swayed by the arguments.

Karen Heaton, 52, a libertarian, said she was looking for a candidate with integrity and one who would strengthen the economy and make health care affordable.

She said she was a supporter of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson before his fourth-place finish in last week’s Iowa caucuses and she still may vote for him, but she wanted to hear from the other candidates.

“I want to see Edwards, possibly Obama, but I don’t think … Hillary Clinton is electable,” she said.

That view was echoed by Richard Roach, 59, of Hollis, who asked Mrs. Clinton during a campaign stop in Nashua why anyone should believe she can win a national election.

“I’m the only one who can withstand the Republican attack machine to get into the White House in the first place,” Mrs. Clinton responded.

Mr. Roach later said that he was “genuinely concerned” after her performance in the Iowa caucuses but added that “I think she assured me well enough.”

A Lifetime/Zogby poll taken before the Iowa caucuses showed that among female voters, 24 percent said they would switch if their candidate did not win in that state.

Patricia K. Mellor, 43, the chief executive officer of the Swift Water Council Girl Scouts, said Iowa has had a minimal effect on her decision.

“I am thinking about whether I have to go with someone in the top three, or if I can still look elsewhere. That is the only question Iowa has generated for me,” she said.

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