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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Case Against McCain — for Women

Senator Obama leads Senator McCain among women by 9 points in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, conducted 7/18-21 (click on “data drilldown” pop-up). It should be a lot more, according to Kate Sheppard’s don’t-miss In These Times cover story “McSexist: John McCain’s War on Women.” Sheppard does a good job of pulling together the case against McCain for women voters, and her article should be helpful in encouraging women to vote their interests. Here’s three key graphs:

A February Planned Parenthood poll of 1,205 women voters in 16 battleground states found that 50 percent of women voters don’t know McCain’s position on abortion, and that 49 percent of women who backed McCain were pro-choice. Forty-six percent of women supporting McCain said they’d like to see Roe v. Wade upheld — though McCain says he supports overturning the decision. When they learned of his position on Roe, 36 percent of women who identified as both pro-choice and likely McCain voters said they would be less likely to vote for him.
These moderate, often suburban, middle-class women could be critical swing voters this election. At the time of the Planned Parenthood poll, Obama held only a 5 percentage-point margin over McCain with its swing-state demographic, 41 percent to 36 percent.
Planned Parenthood concludes that these findings suggest “that just filling in McCain’s actual voting record and his publicly stated positions on a handful of key issues has the potential to diminish his total vote share among battleground women voters by about 17 to 20 percentage points.”

Sheppard goes on to reveal McCain flip-flopping like a mullett on meth regarding issues of concern to women. Indeed, his political Achilles’ Heel may prove to be his dismal record on women’s concerns — provided Dems do a good job of publicizing it.
And the key to increasing Obama’s edge among women in general may be targeting unmarried women in particular, as a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner survey conducted for Womens’ Voices 6/19-24 concluded:

…in key battleground states — Obama holds a 32-point lead over McCain (61%-29%) among this demographic. By comparison, another recent Greenberg/Democracy Corps survey has him leading McCain among married by just one point (49%-48%).
…Per Census data, there are 53 million unmarried women in this country — which is almost equal to the number of married women, both representing 26% of the voting-age population. In fact, Page Gardner, president of Women’s Voices, Women Vote Action Fund, says that unmarried women represent the nation’s fastest-growing demographic. “It is huge and it’s growing,” she told First Read. “This is an extremely important demographic.”
One of the poll’s conclusions is that increasing the size of the unmarried women’s vote — from 22% of all voters in 2004 to 24% in 2008 — could result in at least a two-point increase in Obama’s total, “a huge gain in presidential politics.”
But turning out unmarried women to vote hasn’t always been easy. In 2004, according to the polling analysis, 41% of unmarried women DIDN’T vote in 2004, versus 29% of married women who didn’t.

Targeting and mobilizing this demographic for a record-level turnout is a difficult challenge. But meeting it could open the door for a Democratic landslide.

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