Democratic Women's Vote Is Up for Grabs

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Dear Readers: We've pondered this topic before, but an update from the San Francisco Chronicle merits another go.

The Chronicle ran an article on Sen. Hillary Clinton's official kickoff last week of her campaign for women's votes:

"In a historic campaign for the presidency, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying to ensure that as the Democratic woman in the contest she's the first choice of the Democratic women voting in the contest."

The article quotes Democratic pollster Celinda Lake as saying women are not only 54 percent of the general electorate but a whopping 59 percent of Democratic primary voters. Clinton wields no lock on the women's vote, any more than Sen. Barack Obama controls the black vote.

We've known for a long time that voting blocs are not monolithic, though subgroups within voting blocs can be. President Bush carried the married white women's vote in each of his presidential elections. This is the richest subgroup of women voters and the group of those most likely to espouse their husbands' political leanings. But John Kerry and Al Gore won the women's vote overall, with preponderant support from single white women and women of color.

The Chronicle piece goes on to recount that Emily's List founder Ellen Malcolm is backing Clinton, but former National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League chief Kate Michelman has signed on to the Edwards campaign. Not that abortion is the No. 1 issue for women voters, but Michelman's defection is particularly daunting for Clinton because Michelman says Edwards "understands women's lives."

Well, as the Center for Politics reports, one revision to next year's primary schedule may do more to knock Clinton off kilter than a deficit of women's support:

"The quick succession of Iowa (which he–Edwards–would have won in 2004 had caucuses been held a week later), Nevada (home to phalanxes of service industry unions sympathetic to his pet issue of poverty), and South Carolina (his native state and only 2004 primary victory) structurally inflates Edwards's 2008 odds at the expense of other Democrats in his same tier of the field."