- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Barack Obama and John McCain are in a dead heat among American women. The latest Gallup poll, conducted Aug. 30-Sept. 1 reveals that Mr. McCain has a slight edge among female voters: 48 percent to 44 percent. This is a small increase from the previous Gallup poll for the period Aug. 1-28, which had Mr. McCain leading 46 percent to 42 percent. In the last two elections, President Bush lost the overall women’s vote, but Republicans have steadily gained ground: In 2000, 43 percent to 54 percent; in 2004, 48 percent to 51 percent. Will the majority of women in 2008 vote for a McCain-Palin ticket, even though Sarah Palin is staunchly pro-life?

According to Rasmussen, 53 percent of the general voting public said they have a favorable view of Mrs. Palin; 26 percent do not. Mrs. Palin appears to have the greatest impact among Republicans - 78 percent give her positive reviews. Mrs. Palin is also doing well with those who are not affiliated with either party: 63 percent say they regard her favorably. For voters who are not affiliated with either party, 37 percent state they are more likely to vote for Mr. McCain and 28 percent say they are less likely to do so.

However, among feminists, pro-choice women and so-called Hillarycrats, Mrs. Palin is getting mixed reviews. The president of the National Organization for Women, Kim Gandy, says that Mrs. Palin is a “woman who opposes women’s rights, just like John McCain” and that she’s “not the right woman.” Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, applauds the re-emergence of gender as an issue in the campaign: “This puts the issue back on center stage,” she said.

In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted on Aug. 15-22, prior to the Palin selection, 22 percent of voters who had supported Mrs. Clinton during the primaries said they would vote for Mr. McCain; 61 percent said they would vote for Mr. Obama. In a Gallup poll taken after the Palin selection, among Democratic women, including Mrs. Clinton supporters, 9 percent say Mrs. Palin makes them more likely to support Mr. McCain, 15 percent less likely. Thus, it remains to be seen whether female voters will gravitate to the McCain-Palin ticket.

USA Today’s first poll on Mrs. Palin also reveals that there are widespread doubts as to whether she is sufficiently experienced for the job: 39 percent say she is ready to serve as president if necessary and 33 percent say she is not. This is the lowest vote of confidence in a vice presidential selection since Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle joined George H.W. Bush in 1988. Some Hillary supporters insist that Mr. McCain has failed to appreciate that Mrs. Clinton’s following was based on her experience, not her gender. “I know Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat, in a phone interview with NBC.

It is clear that Mrs. Palin is winning the allegiance and enthusiasm of conservatives and Republicans - as evidence by the rousing reception she received during and following her speech Wednesday at the Republican convention. Mrs. Palin is bolstering Republican support for Mr. McCain. Nonetheless, she will have a steep road ahead in convincing women voters of all stripes that she is also their champion.

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