Battle for womens hearts, minds and votes

The battle for women’s hearts, minds and votes has gone into overdrive. And for good reason. In 2004, women as a whole made up 54 percent of the electorate, with white women making up 41 percent.

Republicans cynically seized on women’s pride over Hillary Clinton’s breakthrough primary campaign, with the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential candidate.

Yet despite screaming headlines about a '20 point shift' among white women from Obama to McCain since the Palin nomination, Gallup Poll News reports no such extraordinary shift has occurred.

'An analysis of Gallup Poll Daily tracking interviewing conducted before and after the two major-party conventions shows that the impact of the conventions was not materially different for white women than it was for white men, and neither group's shifts were substantially different than the changes among the overall electorate,' reported Gallup.

'The data show that McCain gained four points among all white voters (both men and women), and Obama lost one point,' as a result of the GOP convention bounce, Gallup said.

It’s way too early to discount Democratic and democratic-minded women in the battle of hearts, minds and votes. The Obama-Biden campaign is stepping up its message of pay equity and reproductive choice as well as special efforts to reach out to, organize and empower women.

Plus it has powerful women on its side. Including Clinton, who is barnstorming her way through battleground states like Ohio and Florida. She added to her lineup of memorable phrases from her compelling convention speech: 'No way, no how, no McCain, no Palin.'

And Obama-Biden has Michelle Obama, a working mother of two young girls, a powerful speaker and experienced advocate for children and families.

Also add the myriad of feminists who gathered in Denver last month to celebrate Women’s Equality Day at the Democratic National Convention. Women’s Equality Day (officially designated in 1971 as Aug. 26) honors the struggle for and passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote in 1920.

Hundreds of women (and some men) turned out for a Women’s EqualiTea sponsored by Feminist Majority, National Organization for Women, Dolores Huerta Foundation, National Congress of Black Women and National Association of Social Workers. Numerous congresswomen and equal rights leaders spoke about the high stakes in this election for women’s lives.

Outside the 'tea' was a stark contrast between the Democrats and Republicans. A handful of pro-McCain demonstrators lined the sidewalk, forcing hundreds of women and men to run a gauntlet of gruesome photos designed for maximum shock value, which one may see at similar sidewalk protests outside women’s health clinics.

Undeterred, the overflow crowd, many of them Clinton delegates, responded enthusiastically to Sen. Barbara Boxer. She said, 'I know you are hurting from the primaries. I know how much it hurts but we must be united. We cannot afford four more years.'

There were a few at the tea who were not ready to 'move on.' These women were beyond bitter or feeling disrespected. They were hostile toward the first African American Democratic presidential candidate

But one woman wearing a 'Hillary supports Obama, so do I' button put it in perspective when she said, 'Those women are PUMAs — Party Unity My Ass.'

It’s the PUMA types that Karl Rove and McCain played to with the selection of Palin — a staunch supporter of far-right policies. PUMA attitudes played right into Rovian politics to divide women’s equality and racial equality supporters, and helped galvanize McCain’s campaign.

But Boxer and other Democratic women brooked no such nonsense.

It’s in women’s interest to support Obama/Biden, who are staunch supporters of women’s rights, said Rep. Carolyn Maloney from New York. Maloney said that Obama insisted that support for the Equal Rights Amendment, stripped out in a previous Democratic platform, be added back in this time.

'This is the strongest platform ever for women’s rights,' said feminist icon Eleanor Smeal, noting that it includes opposition to any efforts to undermine Roe v. Wade. National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy praised the selection of Biden because of his role in sponsoring the Violence Against Women Act.

Guaranteeing full equality and reproductive choices are what concerns the great majority of women, including white women, feminists said.

Economics and immigration are also women’s concerns, argued Farm Workers union co-founder Dolores Huerta. We 'have got to be there for working people,' Huerta told the gathering. 'There have been 300,000 people deported. We need legalization.'

Rep. Jackie Speier of California reminded everyone that these elections will be a tough fight. Millions of women voted for Bush instead of Kerry, she noted. 'We can’t afford a GOP vote again. The Supreme Court is at stake.'