Politics & Policy

Losing Ground

Kerry's having trouble with women voters.

Last week some Kerry supporters really had their knickers in a twist over the fast-eroding women’s vote. How could it be happening? How could women dare to do the unthinkable and not favor their candidate in overwhelming numbers?

Kerry pollster Mark Mellman claimed the campaign was not especially disturbed by the reduced support from women. “I don’t define it as a problem,” he told the New York Times, I presume with a straight face. “I define it as an opportunity.” A very cheery analysis by someone who certainly knows a Democratic victory is impossible without strong female support.

Naomi Wolf chimed in on the subject in her piece in New York magazine called “Female Trouble.” According to Wolf–who, you remember, was paid big bucks as an adviser by the Gore campaign but has not been hired by Kerry–the Democrats’ eroding appeal among women is all due to that cunning Karen Hughes. Wolf writes, “The true genius behind the Bush success is not Karl Rove, [but] a suburban working mom in sensible shoes.” Karen has performed such dirty tricks as “spin” tax cuts as a boon to women entrepreneurs. Hey, Naomi, they are. Karen has also said one of the benefits of our having removed the Taliban is that Afghan girls can now go to school.

The other night, Bill O’Reilly pointed out to a befuddled Wolf, who seemed to have trouble following his questions, that the administration has, in fact, helped Afghan girls go back to school . So what’s wrong with talking about it? Wolf had no answer but just kept gushing to O’Reilly, “Bill, you’re a smart man.” O’Reilly didn’t disagree.

Other ways the Republicans are ensnaring women is by understanding the “power of the vivid visual image–dressing the entire GOP convention, for instance, in matching tangerine and turquoise.” Gee, I didn’t know tangerine and turquoise turned women on. I’m a blue and yellow girl myself. But I am a bit surprised that a supposedly intellectual feminist such as Wolf would think that women are so shallow that their votes could be swayed by “color co-ordinating the Cheney grandchildren” or dressing Laura Bush in “jewel tones.”

Wolf also had some very harsh words for Teresa, with her “penchant for wearing black, a color no woman wears in the heartland.” But that’s not all: “Let’s start with ‘Heinz.’” Wolf snipes. “By retaining her late husband’s name–there is no genteel way to put this–she is publicly, subliminally cuckolding Kerry with the power of another man–a dead Republican man, at that.”

Whoa, that’s tough. Talk about “mean girls.” With a supposedly loyal Democratic girlfriend like Naomi Wolf, Teresa really doesn’t need any bitchy Republican enemies. But she keeps on making them, and not because she is being unfaithful with the Ghost of Condiments Past.

Let’s face it. Teresa just can’t keep it zipped. Last week the Portuguese Firecracker even managed to win the New York Times’s coveted Marie Antoinette Award. In a Brooklyn neighborhood center she complained they were sending too many clothes to the victims of the hurricane in the Caribbean and too few of items like water and generators. According to the AP, Teresa opined, “Clothing is wonderful, but let them go naked for a while, at least the kids.’”

Note that Teresa had been hidden, as she is so often these days, in a real swing neighborhood in a real swing state, but even there she was able to come up with one of her classic “let ‘em eat cake” pronouncements. And that was before she shared her suspicion that Osama bin Laden would be captured before the November election. She told an audience at an Arizona fundraiser, “I wouldn’t be surprised if he appeared in the next month.” Does that mean she doesn’t want him captured?

Of course the problem Democrats are having with women voters is not the result of Karen’s cleverness or even Teresa’s frequent faux pas. (Though just imagine if Laura made as many missteps as Teresa has done–we’d be hearing about it nonstop on The View.) The truth is that Democrats are still arguing the case against Bush and not the case for Kerry, and women realize this. The senator is just not an appealing candidate, and he has none of the political skills or charisma of Bill Clinton, who, as we all know, certainly had a way with women. Couple that with the fact that the campaign has grown increasingly focused on the issue of security, and women cannot see Kerry as a strong leader with a consistent or clear point of view in the war on terrorism.

What would the senator do in Iraq? How would he keep our families safe? These are the questions undecided women who seem to distrust Kerry want answered and answered clearly. The election may very well ride on how he makes his case to these voters during the debate on Thursday evening. And unless he is far more successful than he has been, Bush is their man–and the election is his.

Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.

Myrna BlythMyrna Blyth is senior vice president and editorial director of AARP Media. She is the former editor-in-chief and publishing director of Ladies’ Home Journal. She was the founding editor and ...


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