Thursday, August 24, 2000

Education, health care plans woo mothers' votes

Support for Gore soars after convention

By Patrick Crowley and Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jenny Geiman of Fort Thomas is a longtime Democrat but intends to vote for George W. Bush.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        Jenny Geiman, Nancy Chase and Lisette Coleman are the kind of female voters Al Gore and George W. Bush are looking for.

        Over the next 11 weeks, the battle for the White House will be a battle for their support — women with children who make up their minds on what a candidate has to say about issues important to them and their families.

        Even though they may now be leaning to one candidate or the other, both campaigns think they can be persuaded.

        Female voters have already shown that campaign events can move them. After last week's Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, national polls that had Mr. Gore trailing Mr. Bush by a substantial margin suddenly turned around.

        The polls showed the race for president was a dead heat, mainly because female voters — particularly middle-class women with children — started flooding back to the Democratic ticket.

        Men have voted overwhelmingly Republican in recent national elections; polls show no sign of that changing.

        That leaves the election of a new president up to female voters who went to Bill Clinton in 1992 and took the White House away from the Republicans.

        Ms. Coleman, a working mother from Fairfield who

        leans Democratic, said she was uncertain about the election but was moved to support Mr. Gore when she heard his acceptance speech last week.

        “I was leaning that way, but he really gave a great speech,” said Ms. Coleman, the mother of a 2-year-old daughter. “He came across as very sincere, very trustworthy. I like that.”

        Mrs. Geiman is a 30-something soccer mom from Fort Thomas, a career woman and the wife of a gun owner. When she votes, she has the interests of her family in mind.

        “I look at what the candidates stand for, I look at what I want for my kids and the world I want them to grow up in,” she said.

        This year, the registered nurse and mother of five said that means voting for Mr. Bush although she has been a longtime Democrat.

        “I just can't go along with what the Democrats are for these days,” Mrs. Geiman said Wednesday in her tidy kitchen.

        Across the Ohio River in Eden Park, 40-year-old Mrs. Chase was pushing her year-old daughter Eva in a stroller around Mirror Lake.

        An independent, the East Walnut Hills woman said a candidate's stand on abortion often influences her vote; she will support Al Gore because he favors abortion rights.

        “I like the Democrats' stand on abortion, and I like their view on education,” said Ms. Chase, also the mother of a 10-year-old son. “And I really liked the pick of Joe Lieberman as vice president.

        If the polls are right, a lot of independent-minded women tuned in at least part of last week's convention in Los Angeles and picked up on the message that the Gore campaign was trying to send:

        He is a family man, attuned to the needs of working people when it comes to education for their children, health care for their families and security for their parents.

        In poll after poll, the women's vote that had been nearly evenly split between Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush started shifting to the Democrats following the convention.

        A USA Today/CNN poll, taken two days after Mr. Gore's acceptance speech, had the race dead even but had Mr. Gore going from nine points behind Mr. Bush among women to 22 points ahead.

        But even the votes of those women who say they are supporting Mr. Gore will be in play during the battle this fall. Much of the poll support for both candidates is “soft,” said pollster John Green, and those who say they are supporting one candidate or the other now can be swayed.

        “I think working class women were already with Gore, but what the convention did was bring him the suburban women, the ones with kids and a job and two cars,” said Mr. Green, director of the University of Akron's Bliss Institute for Applied Politics. “These women are not unhappy with the world; life is pretty good, but they'd like to see the government help them with the problems they do have. They have specific issues they want to hear candidates talk about.”

        As she sipped coffee at Starbucks in Mariemont on Wednesday, Indian Hill Democrat Suzanne Douglas, 38, a former movie producer in southern California, said she looks at four main issues when deciding how to vote.

        “Abortion rights, gun control, tobacco and health care,” said Ms. Douglas, who is pregnant with her first child. “And the Democrats are right on all those issues. That's why I'm voting for Al Gore.

        “The Democrats speak to America; they include all people. The Republicans seemed more concerned about the NRA (National Rifle Association) and the tobacco companies. They just don't get it.”

        Kathy Helmbock, a Cincinnati political activist and spokeswoman for the National Organization for Women, credited Mr. Gore's bounce among female voters to his speech in Los Angeles because it was “long on specifics, not just a lot of glittering generalities. I think he spoke to women voters because he talked specifically about what he would do. Bush, on the other hand, has been somewhat vague.”

        Anderson Township Trustee Peggy Reis, a Republican, is convinced the tide will turn in Mr. Bush's favor when female voters “focus on his record in Texas on education and issues women care about.”

        Ms. Helmbock said that if any one group is to decide the election, it might well be “the independent women, the ones not closely allied to one party or the other. The more partisan ones are already locked in.”

        Walking out of Fuddruckers Restaurant at the Rookwood Pavilion shopping center in Norwood on Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Coleman had her own debate with a friend and co-worker at Ilsco Corp., Robin Desmond. Ms. Coleman said the Democrats are also stronger on health care and issues related to children. “They seem to care more about families and the problems families face, especially with trying to get health care.”

        Ms. Desmond, 39, a Republican from Milford, said one of the main reasons she will vote Republican is they are more supportive of building up the military.

        “Clinton just let the military get so far down,” Ms. Desmond said.

        “Clinton's not running,” Ms. Coleman quickly interjected.

        “I know that, but Al Gore will do the same things,” Ms. Desmond said.


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