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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Democrats Failing To Fire Up Women Voters In 2010 Elections

The White House Struggles To Harness The Female Factor

It's no secret that female voters, once a Democratic mainstay, are no longer so reliable for the party; a narrowing gender gap that President Obama hopes to put a wedge in. In a recent Fox News poll among female likely voters, 44 percent of those asked said they would vote for a Republican candidate and 43 percent said they'd vote for a Democrat. That's a shift from the 56 percent of female votes Mr. Obama garnered in 2008, according to Fox News exit polls that year.

In the closing days of an election that most analysts are predicting could spell upset for the Democrats, the administration isn't taking women voters for granted. The White House is layering its support for two female incumbent Senators in key toss-up states, using their best-known roster: the first and second couples. The president is stumping for incumbent Senators Patty Murray of Washington and Barbara Boxer of California on his four-day campaign blitz, that began Wednesday night. Both Senators also got a visit from Vice President Biden and will be hosting joint appearances next week from Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.

It's an effort to stem discontent among women that the White House hopes will pay off. Women are gaining a stronger hold in the working world, so the impact of an economic downturn is becoming more personally bruising and it's Democrats who are taking the blame. As election calendar days continue to lapse, the White House's National Economic Council is releasing a report on the impact of the recession on women and, says a White House press release, "how the Obama administration's economic policies benefit American women."

Mr. Obama will roll out these efforts targeted at the female population in a backyard conversation Thursday just before taking the stage with Senator Murray. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs denies the focus on women has a political component. "[T]he timing isn't political," Gibbs told reporters Wednesday, while listing past efforts to support women's causes.

"It's an issue that obviously is on everybody's mind and I'm sure is on the minds of people of the states that are represented by women in the Senate and those that aren't."

Poll: Obama Makes Gains With Women, Hits New High

Propelled by concerns over the financial crisis and a return of support from female voters, Barack Obama has opened a formidable 7-point lead over John McCain, reaching the 50% threshold among likely voters for the first time in the general campaign for President, according to a new TIME poll.

Obama now leads McCain 50%-43% overall, up from 46%-41% before the parties' conventions a month ago. Obama's support is not just broader but sturdier; 23% of McCain supporters said they might change their mind, while only 15% of Obama's said they could be persuaded to switch.

Among the poll's most dramatic findings: McCain is losing female voters faster than Sarah Palin attracted them after the Republican National Convention. Obama leads McCain by 17 points with women, 55%-38%. Before the conventions, women preferred Obama by a margin of 10 points, 49%-39%. After McCain picked Palin as his running mate, the gap narrowed to a virtual tie, with Obama holding a 1-point margin, 48%-47%.

In a stark indication of just how much the political landscape has changed over the past four years, white women now favor Obama by three points, 48%-45%; in 2004, George W. Bush won the same demographic by 11 points against John Kerry. Where Bush carried married women by 15 points in that election, 57%-42%, Obama now leads by 6 points, 50%-44%, a 21-point shift.

Non-college-educated white women split virtually evenly, 46%-45% for McCain. By contrast, Obama remains weak among white men. That group supports McCain 57%-36% overall, and non-college-educated white men back the Republican ticket by an even greater margin, 63%-27%.

Bush himself fares terribly in the poll. His approval rating is 23%, the lowest number ever found by Abt/SRBI, the company that conducted the poll for TIME; 73% of respondents disapprove of his performance as President. Only 26% approve of his handling of the current financial crisis.

The economy was a key driver behind all the new numbers. Sixty-five percent of respondents said their economic situation has worsened in the past year — and of those, 59% support Obama. Overall, voters give Obama a 45%-37% edge over McCain as the candidate who is better equipped to handle the economic crisis.

The TIME poll shows that Obama gained some support after his performance at the presidential debate last Friday. Twenty-three percent of those who watched it said it made them more likely to vote for Obama, while 16% said they were more likely to vote for McCain. Of the 73% of likely voters who watched the debate, 41% thought Obama won, while 27% thought McCain did.

For McCain, the most troubling sign may come not from the details of the poll, which are grim for Republicans, but from the historical context. No Democrat has crossed the 50% threshold in the general election since before Ronald Reagan was elected, let alone do so a month before the election.

The fact that Obama's numbers are at this level after a bruising year of attacks from McCain and Hillary Clinton appears to validate his strategy of nurturing and protecting his "character" points. The poll found that Obama maintains a 60% favorable rating among all voters, and 61% think his election would restore a sense of hope and inspiration to the U.S.

Obama still shows vulnerability on the question of what kind of President he would be. Fifty percent of those polled said Obama gives a great speech but doesn't have other qualifications; 46% disagreed with that statement. Asked if it was accurate to say that the real Barack Obama holds extreme positions that won't be revealed until after he's elected, surveyed voters split 46%-46%.

The poll, which surveyed 1,133 likely voters nationwide between Sept. 26-29, has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

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Sources: Fox News, TIME, USPS, Youtube, Google Maps

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