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by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Right Can't Wait to Swiftboat Hillary

(IPS) -- Hillary Clinton's top advisors gleefully predict that women will storm the voting booth barricades to punch the ticket for her. The inference is that female voters will power her into the White House. This is wrong on many counts, and Clinton is too politically savvy and experienced to make that claim this early in the presidential game. In the near century that women have voted, the only presidential election where women tipped the scale was Bill Clinton's re-election in 1996.

Bill Clinton decisively won the female vote. However, he was also the incumbent president. He had the advantage of non-stop media exposure, the presidential bully pulpit, a bulging campaign chest, solid labor backing and a lackluster Republican challenger in Bob Dole. And he was a southerner. That enabled him to snatch the crucial handful of Southern states from the Republicans. That spells the difference between winning the White House and defeat. What primarily made women flock to him was that he was the Democratic candidate. Women tend to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats no matter the candidate's gender.

But not all women vote Democratic. As far as voting goes, party affiliation trumps gender as Democrats found in 1984. They banked heavily that Geraldine Ferraro as the Democrat's vice presidential nominee would swing loads more women voters to them. It didn't. Republican Ronald Reagan trounced the Walter Mondale-Ferraro ticket. Republican women, and probably a considerable number of centrist and conservative women Democrats, voted for Reagan.

In the Republican presidential victories in the 1980s and the Bush Jr. election victories in 2000 and 2004, Republican women voters dutifully voted for their party and will vote even more fervently against Clinton in 2008. A Clinton-headed Democratic ticket will energize, inflame and polarize conservative Christian women voters. Jerry Falwell and company have seen to that. He's loudly saber-rattled her and vowed to mount a holy crusade against her. That will make it virtually impossible for the Democrats to pry the crucial one, or two, states away from the southern Republican bloc. That's 170 electoral votes the Democrats can kiss goodbye in the South. And the women's vote -- even if it was close to solid for Clinton -- would not offset that devastating political loss.

And Clinton can't assume that all women Democrats will vote in big numbers for her. In countless polls, surveys and anecdotally, women say they are less likely to be informed about political issues and more likely to vote for a candidate based on personal likes or dislikes, than men. When asked what they like about Clinton, many women say they like her toughness. That could play against her. How many times has that tagline been used to describe Bush when he makes his blustery pronouncements about Iraq and the war on terrorism, a war so many of them oppose?

Many women vehemently say that they want to see more women get into office and are more likely to vote for a woman candidate. Yet in the 2006 American National Election Study Pilot Test, women sounded as if they would be much harsher in judging a woman candidate's political ability. In other words, they want more women officeholders, but they will hold them to a higher standard than men. Many women still regard politics as a man's game. And traditionally, presidential politics is the biggest male game of all.

Yet in 2005, there were six female presidents and four female prime ministers around the world. If a 2006 CBS poll can be believed she won't face hostility over a woman being president. More than 90 percent of Americans now claim they'll vote for a woman for president.

Clinton's most passionate backers are betting that the women's vote will smooth her path to the White House. Women voters can, and maybe will, be a force in the 2008 election. But if history is any guide, they won't be enough to put her over the top.

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Albion Monitor   May 7, 2007   (

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