Obama's Women Problem?
5:17 PM, Jun 6, 2008 • By GARY ANDRES
Does Obama have a problem with women voters? Will disaffected Clinton voters jump ship and support McCain? American University political scientist Brian Schaffner writes this today, offering some advice about how Obama can boost his numbers among women.
Schaffner argues that in order to win, Obama not only has to win a majority of women, but also run up his margins in this demographic. He makes this observation about the differences between Gore's and Kerry's electoral performances among women:
According to the most recent Pew poll, Obama leads McCain among women by 5 points (47%-42%). Schafner adds this historical note:
Emphasizing issues like healthcare, childcare and education "primes" women voters to favor candidates who talk about those topics, based on Schaffner's research in Senate campaigns. He argues the presidential campaign - to date - has focused more on foreign policy and the economy. If Obama wants to overachieve among women, he'll have to start emphasizing this other set of issues, Schaffner says.
It's an intriguing argument. But I'm a little skeptical about pigeonholing a large segment of the electorate based on one set of issues. I'm not sure if Kerry emphasized healthcare, education and childcare less did than Al Gore. Maybe women in 2004 felt George W. Bush would do a better job fighting terrorism and keeping their families safe compared to John Kerry. Addressing terrorism was not as salient an issue in 2000. Perhaps the absence of a significant national security threat caused more women voters to choose Al Gore in 2000. Nevertheless, arguing Barack Obama can overachieve among women voters in 2008 by just focusing on one set of issues they supposedly care about strikes me as a hypothesis requiring some more investigation.