By Alison Bowen
Thursday, June 12, 2008
After a bruising Democratic primary some Hillary Clinton supporters are mulling voting for John McCain. One of Clinton's staunchest supporters, EMILY's List, argued against that yesterday, calling a vote for the GOP candidate a vote against women.
(WOMENSENEWS)--EMILY'S List, the political action committee that churned out money and support for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton until the last gasp of the Democratic primary campaign, urged disgruntled supporters on Wednesday away from the GOP candidate.
A vote for Arizona Sen. John McCain would be "unthinkable," Ellen Malcolm, EMILY'S List president, said in conference calls with reporters yesterday to counter the McCain campaign's efforts to woo disappointed Clinton supporters. EMILY's List supports only Democratic, pro-choice female candidates. McCain has consistently voted against pro-choice and anti-discrimination legislation in the U.S. Senate.
In her concession speech on Saturday Clinton urged her supporters to join her in backing Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and she has continued to press that message this week. But a June 10 CNN poll found 17 percent of Clinton supporters weighing a vote for McCain. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 7.5 points.
McCain advisers said this week that the campaign will try to target "disaffected Democrats" who supported Clinton and may be hesitant to support Obama.
"I think that idea is a pipe dream, because Sen. McCain is really out of touch with the lives that these women are leading, and he's against many of the policy positions that they hold," said Malcolm, a staunch Clinton ally who decried the pressures on her to bow out of the race in a recent op-ed for the Washington Post.
EMILY's List endorsed Clinton in January 2007, the day Clinton announced her bid, and funneled $1 million to her campaign.
Malcolm wrote a message to members on the Web site June 6, expressing her sadness over Clinton's failure to capture the nomination and "wholeheartedly" congratulating Obama, whom she called "our new leader."
Many Clinton loyalists say a vein of sexism helped Obama, the Democratic presumptive nominee, snatch away a candidacy Clinton worked years to achieve.
Heidi Schnakenberg, a strong Clinton supporter in New York and an occasional commentator for Women's eNews, said she would never vote for McCain. But she said she was torn between writing Clinton in on the November ballot and voting for Obama.
She says many of Clinton's supporters feel deeply that this should have been her year to win the nomination. "People's knee-jerk reaction is they want to punish Obama and his supporters for that."
While Wednesday's conference call pinpointed reasons for not voting for McCain, Malcolm fell far short of giving her rousing endorsement to Obama, mentioning his name rarely.
McCain has consistently made respectful comments about Clinton's experience and work in the Senate. "I believe that she inspired women all over the world, including in this country," McCain told Brian Williams of NBC in an interview on June 9, two days after Clinton officially ended her bid. "And I respect her. We'd obviously love to have the support and are getting some of that support."
The Washington-based Center for American Progress Action Fund, which promotes grassroots advocacy, hosted the teleconference, which included Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who served as a national campaign co-chair for Clinton; James Kvaal, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund; and Anna Greenberg, senior vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a global public opinion and polling company.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund also issued a report June 11, "The Impact of John McCain's Policies on America's Women," that took McCain to task on economic, health care, reproductive and civil rights policies, and the war in Iraq.
The report notes that within the last year, McCain voted against increasing the minimum wage seven times, voted in August against the reauthorization of SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and supported a constitutional ban on abortion in a 2000 "Meet the Press" interview. S-CHIP is a program that provides health insurance to middle- and low-income families. The McCain campaign press office could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Obama leads among female registered voters with 51 percent of their support, compared to McCain with 38 percent, according to a June 11 Gallup poll conducted June 5 to 9. This 13 percentage point lead is five percentage points higher than at the end of May, before Clinton conceded.
McCain's "Women for McCain" Web site offers a greeting from national co-chairs Mica Mosbacher and Judy Black, who say they share the many roles of U.S. women: wife, mother, daughter, single mother. "Balancing all of that is a challenge and we're also concerned about the nation's security, the economy, education, a host of domestic issues," they write. "We believe John McCain addresses all the things that really matter to us."
With adjectives like "outrageous" and "appalling," Wasserman Schultz criticized McCain's opposition to funding universal pre-kindergarten education; his failure to support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would provide individuals who discover they have experienced wage discrimination an extended time period to sue their employers; and his attack on reproductive rights by calling to repeal Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that limited the government's rights to regulate abortion.
"John McCain is clearly out of touch and insensitive to the needs and the plights of women," Wasserman Schultz said. "The last thing in the world that women need to do is vote for John McCain. We are here to really sound the alarm bell."
Wasserman Schultz said she was speaking not only as a political representative but also as a mother of young children who worries about affordable day care and health insurance for her three young children.
James Kvaal, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said he believes a misconception exists that McCain is "some kind of moderate."
"But he really has fallen right in line with the hard-right stances that are critical to women," Kvaal said.
Malcolm said her main concern is about a possible defection by non-college-educated women, traditionally a core group of swing voters.
"These are the lynchpins for Democrats," Malcolm said.
Malcolm said EMILY'S List plans to target this core swing group with arguments for why sticking with the Democratic Party is a better choice for women.
Malcolm said McCain's economic policies do not help such women. As an example she pointed to McCain's support for tax cuts for oil companies. "These women who have tremendous economic anxiety are going to be flabbergasted to see that he wants to give tax cuts to the oil companies, who are having record profits, and not pay attention to those who really need some relief."
One Web site, Ex-Hillary Clinton Supporters for John McCain, was launched May 31 by Ed Hale, a Texan, who claims 1.5 million visitors so far. Two photographs anchor the site. One shows McCain and Clinton leaning toward each other, smiling warmly. The other shows Obama turning away from Clinton in the U.S. Senate.
Message boards on the site are full of mentions of Obama's controversial former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Other messages talk about breaking with the Democratic Party after the Democratic National Committee allowed only half-votes to Michigan and Florida after those states violated party rules by moving up their primary elections.
Alison Bowen is a New York City-based journalist covering the 2008 campaign. Her work also appears in the New York Daily News.
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Women for McCain
Center for American Progress Action Fund, "Not What Women Want" report
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