- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2008

As of Sept. 1, 40 percent of women said the economy was their number one issue, according to a Fox News poll. A number of polls since then have shown that women almost always make the economy their number one or number two issue in the general election. There are many reasons for this, but primarily women are the owners of about 9.1 million businesses in this country. Moreover, the Labor Department said the unemployment rate for women rose to 5.6 percent in August.

In some of the battleground states, the economy is showing up as the primary issue driving female voters toward John McCain and Barack Obama. In Florida, for example, 45 to 47 percent of women support Mr. McCain, according to a recent Quinnipiac University Swing State poll. Overall, the economy was selected by 49 percent of voters as the top issue in the state. In Ohio, the top two voter concerns again were health care and the economy; here Mr. Obama held a 52 to 43 percent lead over Mr. McCain. In Pennsylvania, 51 percent of the voters said the economy was the most important issue. Mr. Obama held a lead of 51 percent among women in Pennsylvania.

The issues of economy and business for female voters become far more interesting when the number of contracts awarded to women by the government is addressed. For example, as of August 2007, the Defense Department had awarded $2 billion in prime contracts and $2.4 billion in subprime contracts to women-owned small businesses alone. In fact, women-owned businesses contribute to the backbone of our economy by employing an estimated 27.5 million workers and by pouring in $3.6 trillion to the economy, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. In early September the National Women’s Law Center called for the government to “pass economic recovery measures to help struggling families, protect vital state services and boost the economy,” in reaction to high unemployment numbers and general economic concerns.

It is certainly true that female voters can make or break a candidate. (Recall Bill Clinton’s pull with women in the 1992 election during the recession.) Now, the question must be asked: Is the Bush administration’s asset-relief plan meant to soothe female voters to the Republicans?