Women pack a heavy voting punch in vital swing state
Candidates are treading carefully in their political messages on women’s health issues, writes CARL O'BRIENin Littleton Colorado
REBECCA MILLER (23) is in big demand these days. As the presidential race barrels towards its conclusion, both campaigns increasingly see undecided women in the swing states as the key to unlocking victory.
But it’s not just any women. Once it was “soccer mom”, the mythical, suburban, middle-class American, who was regarded as the most precious of undecided voters.
These days, perhaps due to the economic doldrums, it’s the low-paid, under-educated “waitress mom” who’s regarded as the most precious of electoral assets.
Either side will have a job convincing Miller that they have the ability to turn the country around.
She waits tables at Merle’s, a family-friendly diner that serves up classic American dishes (its “molten mustard” chicken wings are in big demand) in a building that used to be a petrol station in the 1930s. And she isn’t giving her vote away easily.
“Well, they’re both, sort of, liars,” says Miller, who earns about $9 an hour, a little above the minimum wage of $7.64. “Whoever tells the best lie will be the winner . . . a lot of people expect an instant turnaround in the economy. That’s not going to happen, whoever is elected.”
Pollsters and analysts have long been in love with dividing voters into often dubious and distinct blocs at election time. What is clear, however, is there has been a significant gender gap in this presidential election.
For months, polls have shown Barack Obama with a double-digit lead over Mitt Romney among women voters. But latest polls show the gap has narrowed sharply.
Democrats helped carve out that lead with a relentless advertising blitz over the summer and autumn months, insisting that Romney was not to be trusted on issues such as reproductive rights, equal pay, contraception and healthcare.
But the latest data shows the gap has narrowed sharply. Most polls still show Obama out in front among women, though a new Associated Press survey indicates that Romney has now pulled even with Obama among females who are likely to vote.
Romney’s pitch to women has been focused squarely on the economy, making the case that what women want most is to ensure their families and their country are on a solid financial footing.
That message appears to be taking root in places like Littleton, in the heart of Arapahoe County, Colorado. It’s a swing county in a swing state and is being fiercely contested by both campaigns.
In this solidly middle-class part of the constituency, both Romney and Obama signs are planted in the snow-covered front lawns of the detached wooden homes.
“This county may be one of the most important counties in the election,” says Colorado-based political analyst Floyd Ciruli. “If our nine electoral votes decide the president, this county will play a key role.” Many believe concerns about Romney’s stance over women’s rights are exaggerated, and that the economy is a far more urgent issue. Heather Glidden (22), from Littleton, is one of them.