- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Sen. John Kerry is trying to close an emerging gap among female voters, who, recent polls show, are moving toward President Bush, contrary to the advantage that Democrats usually enjoy among women.

Many pollsters say this shift is because of a new brand of female voter, “security moms,” who watch events such as the massacre of schoolchildren by Muslim terrorists in Russia and think of their own children.

If national security is a voter’s top concern, then polls show that voter is twice as likely to prefer Mr. Bush to Mr. Kerry.

One recent poll conducted by the New York Times showed Mr. Bush with 48 percent among women to Mr. Kerry’s 43 percent. The gap among married women is even greater, with 59 percent supporting Mr. Bush and 32 percent supporting Mr. Kerry.

This signals quite a reversal of electoral fortunes for Democrats. In the 2000 election, Vice President Al Gore won 54 percent of women’s votes and Mr. Bush won support from only 43 percent.

Acknowledging the growing gap, the Kerry campaign is making changes in hopes of wooing women back into the Democratic fold. The campaign has scheduled events aimed at women, and Mr. Kerry has begun traveling with September 11 widows and modified his stump speech.

Just last week, the Kerry campaign scheduled an Iowa town hall-style meeting with a mostly female audience to talk about national security. A cold left his voice weak, however, and running mate Sen. John Edwards went in his place to argue that Mr. Kerry had the strength to combat terrorism.

“The greatest tribute to those who died on September 11 is to build a safer world, where terrorism falls and democracy rises,” Mr. Edwards told the women in Iowa. “John Kerry and I will honor those who fell on September 11 and those who have subsequently fallen in the fight for freedom by leading a relentless fight to crush terrorism and restore America as a safe, strong, respected nation once again.”

Joining Mr. Edwards was the state’s first lady, Christie Vilsack, who endorsed Mr. Kerry before Iowa’s January caucuses.

“I want to feel safe again,” Mrs. Vilsack said. “I feel safer knowing they will bring our sons and daughters home to rebuild our own communities.”

Mr. Kerry also has been traveling with a group of activist widows whose husbands were killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks and have endorsed the Massachusetts Democrat. The women, who oppose Mr. Bush for not initially embracing the September 11 commission, often introduce Mr. Kerry.

“President Bush failed me,” said Lorie VanAuken, a mother of two whose husband worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and died when a plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. “He failed us all.”

Mr. Kerry has begun peppering his national-security speeches with entreaties to women.

“When we look at the images of children brutalized by remorseless terrorists in Russia, we know that this is not just a political or military struggle — it goes to the very heart of what we value most — our families,” Mr. Kerry said last week at Temple University in Philadelphia.

“It strikes at the bond between a mother and child. As president, I will make it my sacred duty to be able to say to every mother and father in this country, I am doing everything in my power to keep your children safe,” he said.

But that’s not to say all women are looking for security, according to polling conducted by Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research.

The firm recently completed a poll of single, divorced or widowed women in 12 states and found that national security was low on their list of concerns.

“They know they are hearing about national security, but not hearing what they want to hear about,” explained Vice President Anna Greenberg, who said those women were more concerned about equal pay and raising the minimum wage.

“The war and terrorism is at the bottom of what they want to hear about,” she said.

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