(WOMENSENEWS)–Hillary Clinton is concentrating on New Hampshire and Iowa where winning the first contests of the presidential campaign in early February could enable her to seal her status as the nominee and start building toward the general election in November.
But she can’t take anything for granted, including her leadership on issues dear to the Democratic female electorate.
Unlike the 2008 presidential election when gender issues received little attention, Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and other Democratic contenders are addressing women’s concerns about the high cost of education, health care and raising children.
A Dec. 8 Monmouth University poll shows Clinton leading Sanders by 22 points among likely Democratic caucus goers. Her advantage among female voters is a wider 34 points (61 percent to 27 percent) and 5 points (47 to 42 percent) among men. Another poll, released Dec. 14, shows Clinton leading, but by less.
But a similar polling edge disappeared on Clinton in 2008 when she lost support among female voters in the Iowa caucus and came in third to Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. That year, an 11th hour rally in New Hampshire enabled Clinton to retain the women’s vote and score a 3 percentage point victory in the popular vote, trying Obama in delegates.
In New Hampshire, Sanders has been enjoying polling leads of various degrees.
Both states have been receptive to female candidates.
In November, Republican Joni Ernst became the first woman elected to represent Iowa in the U.S. Senate. In 2012, New Hampshire elected an all-female contingent to the U.S. Congress. This year, the state’s Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan is challenging incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte for the U.S. Senate seat.
Sanders Attracts Crowds
Dismissed as a longshot when he announced his candidacy in May, Sanders has attracted huge crowds in both states in recent weeks. They have responded to his populist message that the country is on the wrong track because 58 percent of all new income since the 2008 recession has gone to the top 1 percent who have rigged the economy and hurt hard-working families.
Sanders’ plan to expand Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income above $250,000 and to create a Medicare-for-all system of health care has resonated with older female voters who cast ballots for Clinton in 2008 because they were eager to elect the first female president. His plan to provide free tuition at public college and universities has won him many supporters among millennial women in New Hampshire, which leads the nation in student debt with $31,408 per student.
Clinton and Sanders are expected to continue to spar over campaign finance reform as they cross paths in Davenport, Iowa, Dover, N.H., and other places ahead of the first two primaries.
Clinton has claimed that she needs the contributions of mega-donors to compete in the general election against Republicans such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who have been tapping billionaire families in the energy and finance industries.
Some of Clinton’s mega-donors include George Soros, the New York financier, Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Hollywood mogul, Herbert M. Sandler, founder of Golden West Financial, the giant California savings and loan purchased by Wachovia Corp., in 2006, and Steven Spielberg, the well-known director of Hollywood blockbusters and co-principal of Dream Works Animation.
Clinton has raised $204,202 from hedge fund executives, the most of any 2016 candidate, notes the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign financing.
Despite that, her coffers are shallow compared to some GOP opponents.
Cruz, for instance, who is now polling as a front runner in Iowa, received $11.3 million from Robert Mercer, a New York hedge fund manager, more than all of Clinton’s nine mega-donors combined.
A Fast Start
The former first lady got off to one of the fastest starts in fundraising for presidential elections, collecting more than $75 million to Sanders’ $15 million in the first nine months, which enabled her to hire hundreds of staff and establish an extensive network of campaign headquarters in Iowa and New Hampshire.
More than $17.3 million of Clinton’s eye-popping total came from super PACs, groups that raised unlimited funds from individuals, corporations and labor unions. Sanders, who has made campaign finance reform a top priority, spurned super PACs, relying on volunteers and gifts of $100 or less raised over the Internet to keep his campaign afloat.
However, in the third quarter, Clinton barely outpaced Sanders, collecting $28 million to his $26 million, which sent shock waves through the Clinton brain trust because small donors were the key to Obama’s victories in the long primary season of 2008.
The election is shaping up to be the most expensive in American history with 56 donors, including 14 women, giving $1 million or more to the super PACs of the crowded GOP field and Clinton in the first six months of the year, an analysis of Federal Election Commission reports by The New York Times found.
In September, Clinton unveiled a long-term solution to the problem of campaign finance, which calls for overturning Citizens United, the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for donations by mega-donors.
In addition to pledging to appoint only justices to the Supreme Court who would rule against the act, Clinton said she would be open to a constitutional amendment to end the decision and would support a small-donor matching systems, which would increase the influence of everyday Americans who cannot write large checks.
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