Does terrorism threaten single men or women? One could be forgiven for thinking it doesn't when listening to John Kerry's latest pronouncements on terror. At Temple University the other day, Kerry explained that terrorism is a grave threat to mothers in particular. Terrorism "goes to the very heart of what we value most -- our families," he said. "It strikes at the bond between a mother and child."
Whether the overriding goal of terrorists is actually to strike at maternal bonding is open to debate, but Kerry has clearly been reading his poll numbers. The Beslan school massacre played out a parent's worst nightmare on TV screens everywhere, and had a discernible effect on the attitudes, and voter preferences, of married women almost immediately.
Republican strategist David Winston says the economy and jobs had been the top concerns of married women all year, but defense and terrorism became the top issues in August, after the Democratic Convention (where there was lots of talk of terrorism, in between the Vietnam flashbacks). Then terror and defense became even more important for married women in September in the wake of the Beslan massacre. "Women are engaging on defense and terror because of what they saw at that school," says Winston. "It made the threat very present and very vivid."
According to Time magazine, Kerry had a typical Democratic lead of 50 percent to 36 percent among women generally in early August. The lead evaporated in early September, and now the two candidates are essentially tied among women -- Kerry 44 percent, Bush 43 percent. Other polls show President Bush ahead among women.
Married women worried about terrorism have been dubbed -- in the latest cutesy name describing a boutique demographic group -- "security moms." According to GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway, they include both the famous "soccer moms" from the 1990s -- suburban moms who tend to be liberal on abortion, guns and the environment -- and blue-collar moms, who are less well-off than their suburban counterparts. Among both groups Bush has leads on key attributes, such as strong leadership and sticking by his positions. It isn't, says Conway, that the soccer moms have abandoned their liberal-leaning views on social issues, just that those issues have been eclipsed by terrorism and homeland security.