Female voters warm to Obama

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Wounds inflicted during the long Democratic primary battle are begrudgingly healing, as prominent supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s failed presidential bid are beginning to voice support for Sen. Barack Obama.

Ellen R. Malcolm, founder and president Emily’s List, an influential Democratic women’s political advocacy group that endorsed Mrs. Clinton for president, on Thursday called for party unity and urged Clinton supporters to back Mr. Obama.

“I’ve been meandering my way through the various stages of grief” over Mrs. Clinton’s failure to win the nomination, Ms. Malcolm said at the group’s annual luncheon at Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel. “But I will follow the lead of Hillary Clinton by saying, it’s time to come together.”

Emily’s List, one of the nation’s most liberal and largest political advocacy groups for women, only endorses pro-choice Democratic women for office. But Ms. Malcolm said she spoke with Mr. Obama on June 6 and told him she would “do all I could to help unite our party and keep [the presumptive Republican presidential nominee] John McCain from being elected president.”

Her message was enthusiastically received by most of the 800 members and supporters in attendance.

“I think women Democrats are definitely going to come together and support Senator Obama for the office of president - but it might take us more time,” said Deborah J. Israel, a Washington attorney and Clinton supporter. “But what Emily’s List did today, at least for me, was help move the healing process along faster.

“While I was emotionally invested in Hillary Clinton, I am a Democrat.”

Two Democratic governors who backed Mrs. Clinton and helped deliver her primary victories in their battleground states will appear Friday with Mr. Obama. Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland will greet him in Columbus, and the Illinois senator plans to join Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell in Philadelphia.

Another prominent Clinton backer, North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, on Monday introduced Mr. Obama at a campaign stop in Raleigh.

Meanwhile, the McCain camp is actively wooing disgruntled Clinton supporters and “security moms” - women concerned about national security issues who voted for George W. Bush for president in 2004.

Mr. McCain has publicly praised the New York senator in recent days, saying in an interview with ABC television that he respects Mrs. Clinton and that she has “inspired women all over the world, including in this country.”

“We’d obviously love to have the support and are getting some of that support,” he added.

Former Hewlett-Packard executive and McCain backer Carly Fiorina was scheduled to meet Thursday evening with Clinton supporters in Ohio. She and Mr. McCain also have scheduled a Saturday teleconference with Clinton backers and others.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut independent who has endorsed Mr. McCain, also has urged Clinton backers, as well as other Democrats and independents, to consider voting for the Arizona senator.

“Millions of women voters who were united behind Senator Clinton are now deciding which candidate to support, [and] John McCain’s bipartisan record of fighting for hardworking American families and protecting our national security make him well positioned to fight for each one of those votes,” said McCain campaign spokeswoman Crystal Benton.

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