Fact: 54% of voters in the 2004 election were women and that’s good news for Hillary Clinton (D-NY). According to various news reports, Clinton employs six full-time staffers specifically for women’s outreach — more than any other candidate — to reel in the female vote.
For now, Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in the Democratic race by a 42-23% (according to the latest RCP poll) margin and will likely take the nomination for 2008. She knows how critical that female vote is, which is why she participated in a Women in Public Policy (WIPP) event yesterday. Clinton used the opportunity to tout her freshly unveiled healthcare agenda.
She said she wants "to make sure that small business can use the federal system to pull together a very large nationwide pool for small business employers to offer healthcare to their employees."
At Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress, spoke to female business owners on the importance of their votes and grassroots activism in the 2008 election.
“It’s important for men and women to understand that we [women] will decide this election,” she said. As a Republican, Granger’s favor won’t lie with Clinton or Obama but as the first female Republican from Texas to serve in Congress, she wants women to vote.
WIPP President Barbara Kasoff said women in business “challenge candidates…[and] members of Congress to stop and listen to this rapidly growing group…” in the move towards the “highly competitive  presidential elections.”
That’s one reason Granger created WIN (Women Impacting the Nation), which encourages women to use their economic power to gain political influence through grassroots activism and business endeavors. Together with Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)), Granger hopes WIN will inspire women to become more involved with the 2008 election.
Granger said she specifically chose an active verb for the organization’s acronym to convey the idea that “this is what women are doing now…impacting the nation, making things happen.”
She recommended that women reframe the questions surrounding the political process. Instead of asking vague, open ended questions, be specific and ask, “When you can’t go to sleep at night, what do you worry about?” Those are the things that really matter to women, she said, and often they are the same things that matter to men.
Granger was joined by Jo-Ann Davidson, co-chair of the Republican National Committee, who agreed the main issues — the war, economy, healthcare and education — were generally co-ed. Davidson asserted that women shouldn’t be considered “special interest” because they are a bigger group then men in the election process.
“Women make a huge difference by getting involved,” said Davidson. “We have better public policy when more women are at the table.”
She said women’s leadership programs are vitally important to increasing grassroots influence. She referenced Republican Rep. Heather Wilson’s New Mexico campaign, which was significantly enhanced through these kinds of programs. Davidson called this election year “uncharted water” because of the early calendar dates for primaries and because it is the first since 1928 that the slates of presidential and vice-presidential candidates won’t include an incumbent.
Part of the WIPP schedule — which moved from the Mayflower to the Hart Senate Office Building for lunchtime speakers — included the presentation of the 2007 Elizabeth Dole Young Entrepreneur Scholarship Award to Nwenna Gates, owner of Taste of the Goddess Café in Los Angeles. Emphasizing the power and influence women have through business is a part of the strategy politicians like Dole are using to increase voter turnout and political activism.
“You should be involved in you want to make an impact,” Davidson said, adding that with no clear favorite for either party, “this is totally new ground and opportunity could be lost…if you don’t get plugged in.”
When women become active in campaigns, they will learn more about their candidate instead of voting carelessly — which was exepmlified by Ellen Malcolm, national chairwoman of Clinton’s campaign, when she told the New York Times women should vote for Clinton because she’s a woman and "would understand our lives because it’s her life too."
Some view Clinton as the glass breaker for a female presidency. However, WIPP and WIN encourage empowerment through knowledge so the right person — not necessarily woman — is elected according to their qualifications.
WIPP’s two-day conference included speakers Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Sam Brownback and U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao as well.
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