Obama's Women Problem

Posted: Jun 06, 2008 4:32 PM
Obama's Women Problem

If Barack Obama wants to make inroads with Hillary Clinton’s disaffected female voters, he has work to do.

Primary race exit polling showed white female voters have supported Clinton by 24 more points than Obama and his favorability ratings among white women suffered a 13-point drop-- from 56 percent to 43 percent-- since last February, according to a May 29 Pew Research polling report. The same poll showed Obama losing that demographic by eight points to his GOP general election opponent John McCain, 41 to 49 percent.

The gap was also apparent in a private poll conducted last month by McLaughlin & Associates last month. It found McCain had a 49 to 38 percent edge over Obama among white women nationwide. Pollster John McLaughlin told Townhall in a phone interview he believed some of the most important demographic battles for voters in the general election would be for Hispanic and white women. “That’s what they’ll be fighting over,” McLaughlin said. Throughout the primaries both McCain and Obama have competitively polled in the “mid-to-high forties” among Hispanic women, he added.

The white female voting block is a demographic neither candidate can afford to lose. In the 2004 election, white women represented 44 percent of the vote. (Hispanics, both male and female, represented 8 percent of the total vote.)

The main reason Obama has struggled to capture white, female voters is because his former rival Hillary Clinton, who would have become the first-ever woman president, seemed to have a lock on that base. Clinton exploited the rift in the last days of her campaign by telling the Washington Post that sexism was partly responsible for her demise. "It's been deeply offensive to millions of women. I believe this campaign has been a groundbreaker in a lot of ways," Clinton said. "But it certainly has been challenging given some of the attitudes in the press.”

The Pew Research poll, previously noted, found as many as 39 percent of Clinton’s supporters believe gender hurt her candidacy and some of them are still supporting Clinton in the name of feminism.

“Most of us feel that the Democrats need to be taught a lesson for their silence on the subject of sexism and the peril they will find themselves in for ignoring their most loyal base of voters,” blogged Cynthia Ruccia, founder of Women for Fair Politics, Thursday. “I for one, believe strongly that when it comes to sexism, we will continue to be treated savagely the way Hillary was treated if we don't speak up now and always. For whatever you think about Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, they have helped our society to define the parameters of what is and is not acceptable behavior and speech when it comes to racism. We need to do that for sexism.”

Ruccia’s group is currently soliciting signatures on her group’s website for two separate petitions. One is to support a Clinton in making a nomination challenge at the convention and the other is to pressure Obama to make Clinton his vice president.

Obama has periodically used language feminists found offensive. At a February stop at Tulane University Obama said he was being unfairly attacked by Clinton. “You challenge the status quo and suddenly the claws come out,” he said, infuriating women who thought the remark was sexist.

Obama reached the number of delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination for president Tuesday, but Clinton has yet to formally concede the race to him. She gave a speech that evening to congratulate him on the race he had “run” without admit he had “won.” Clinton is scheduled to finally endorse Obama for president in a high-profile speech to her supporters Saturday in Washington, D.C.