The spiciest interpretation of Teresa Kerry?s sour put-down of Laura Bush?s job history is that ?Heinz was in a pickle.? She got out of it with a quick apology, patronizing though it was, but clearly revealed what she actually thinks about women who devote all their time to raising their children.
The Democratic presidential campaign spent a whole day playing ketchup in its pursuit of the women?s vote. The New York Times, desperately searching for signs of hope, reports that John Kerry is once more winning the loyalty of the ladies (by 50 percent to 40 percent). Newsweek gives the edge to George W., 49 percent to 43 percent. Other polls say the ladies can?t decide who?s the winning wooer, and call the distaff vote a tie.
If this were a debutante ball, you can be sure there would be no wallflowers. Every dance card would be full. If this were a fairy tale the candidates would be turning out glass slippers in wholesale lots of different sizes. It?s difficult to say how many women who are actually undecided will vote and besides, women have been known to change their minds, often at the last minute. Since women make up 53 percent of the electorate, for the next two weeks even the plainest among us can enjoy the role familiar to the beautiful women who luxuriate in being picky, very picky.
It?s a given that the Democratic candidate has to win big with women to reduce the gender gap -- men are expected to vote in big numbers to re-elect the president. But this year it?s possible that women, usually conservative if their families? safety and security are in the balance, will find reasons to return to the Republican candidate they abandoned for the flatteries and blandishments of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Two savvy conservative women who combine appeals to women on both domestic issues and foreign policy have established an organization to run television commercials to tap into this natural conservative feminine spirit. Lisa Schiffren and Heather Higgins call their advocacy organization ?Softer Voices,? to counter the more strident voices that make up the noise of scream-and-shout television.
They might rework Theodore Roosevelt?s advice, and urge women to ?speak softly and carry a big shtick.? Both women are mothers and relate to women who are not ideologically doctrinaire but who are instinctively conservative on war and taxes. Heather Higgins is chairwoman of the Independent Women?s Forum, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. organized to counter ?the woman as victim? ideology.