- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2004

Female voters are key to November’s presidential election, and how they vote could depend on whether President Bush can convince them that his fight against terrorism overseas ultimately is meant to secure their offices, shopping malls and schools at home.

“I don’t think that connection has been made yet,” Sen. Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican, said at a Senate Republican Conference meeting on Thursday. Mr. Smith said if women are not convinced that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are aimed at making their daily lives more secure, “this president won’t win” the election.

Republican pollster Whit Ayres agreed that “the real question is whether security will translate into a woman’s issue,” but said he is confident that Mr. Bush will drive home the security message to women and will benefit at the polls.

“Women trust this president,” said Republican pollster David Winston.

Female voters are “trying to understand the connection between the war in Iraq and the war on terror,” he said.

Women are more likely to vote for Democrats, and men lean toward Republicans. In the 2000 election, for example, 43 percent of men voted for Al Gore and 54 percent for Mr. Bush. The women’s vote was almost the exact opposite — 54 percent for Mr. Gore and 44 percent for Mr. Bush, according to the Roper Center at the University of Connecticut.

Ann Lewis, national director of the Women’s Vote Center at the Democratic National Committee, said that because women tend to vote Democratic, her group’s main goal is to make sure women turn out to vote in November, which clearly will benefit Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. She said women favor Democrats because on issues such as health care and education, “they want to see an active role for government.”

Mr. Bush has delivered major legislation in both health care and education, which “should appeal” to women, Mr. Ayres said.

Republican pollster John McHenry said race also is a factor in the so-called “gender gap.” White women and men generally vote in equal numbers, but black women far outnumber black men at the polls — about 60 percent to 40 percent — so Democrats will target black women in their get-out-the-vote efforts.

Democratic consultant Morris Reid, a former Clinton administration official, said Mr. Bush is in danger of losing a key segment of women who usually vote Republican. These women are affluent, well-educated, married to Republican-voting men and living in the suburbs of major cities, he said. They question the justification of the war in Iraq, why the United States never found weapons of mass destruction and why the United States hasn’t captured Osama bin Laden, Mr. Reid said.

“These women should be for George Bush, and they’re not yet,” he said. “Their question is: ‘Is George Bush making this world safer for my kids and my grandkids?’ And the answer is not necessarily yes.”

Ms. Lewis said women “range from skeptical to negative” on Mr. Bush and security, mainly because they feel the efforts overseas might be at the expense of homeland security.

Mr. Ayres said security isn’t the only issue. In swing states, he said, both men and women “are more culturally conservative” and align more with Mr. Bush on issues such as religion, homosexual “marriage” and gun control. He predicted that these issues will surge in the months before the election, giving Mr. Bush a boost.

Mr. Reid said both the Bush and Kerry campaigns are missing a key segment of female voters — young, single, professional women.

“Women are very much up for grabs,” Mr. Reid said, adding that campaigns should “double the budget for women under 40 in battleground states” and “look at nontraditional ways to reach them.”

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