Hillary and the Critical Women's Vote

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OK, so Hillary's "in," but can she win, and, most important, can she win the votes of women? As Dick Morris and Eileen McGann have reminded us, "Remember that women are 52 percent of our population, 54 percent of the registered vote, and usually between 55 percent and 56 percent of actual turnout."

I think the biggest question facing Clinton in her presidential bid is whether her "remake" produces a politician whom moderate Republican women and full-time homemakers can embrace. The most virulent opposition to Clinton I've heard comes from voters from this group. Some say they detest her because she stayed with a philandering husband.

Some say they see her as opportunistic or don't trust her after Whitewater and an allegation of insider trading. But I think it boils down to gut instinct–to them, she's a threat. She's a self-supporting career woman who doesn't depend on her husband for financial support or personal identity.

Clinton's lucky break with women could come from recent demographic changes boosting the percentage of single American women and their representation in the electorate. In 2000, 19 million single women voted. That rose to 27 million in 2004. If current trends continue, 32 million single women could turn out in 2008. This group, financially less well off as a whole than married women, is not threatened by Clinton's independence and appreciates her support for more accessible healthcare. These women, whether divorced, widowed, or never married, voted Democratic by a 2-to-1 margin in 2004 and 2006. President Bush won the married white women's vote in 2000 and 2004.

Up next: Will women vote for a woman?