At DNC, Every Night Is Ladies Night

Democrats seek to fire up female voters in Charlotte
Chet Susslin, National Journal

At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, every night is ladies’ night.

Fresh off the Republican gathering, where the GOP approved a party platform banning abortion in all cases, the Democrats want to cast their party as the one friendliest to women. The place where that becomes the most apparent? The social calendar.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California kicked off the focus on women’s issues when she spoke on Tuesday morning at the Women’s Caucus meeting. In a huge ballroom, she chided the Republicans for trotting out their wives and mothers in Tampa while ignoring what Pelosi deemed the larger concerns of women.

“I’m more interested in how they respect the judgment of women,” she told a receptive crowd.

“Women have the most to gain and the most to lose if [President Obama] does not win,” she added.

Beyond the political speeches to fire up the base, Democrats are wooing women with late-night parties, fancy luncheons, and cocktails. On Tuesday night, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund threw a “Sex, Politics, and Cocktails” party. The black invitation featured a pink martini glass.

On Wednesday, EMILY’s List and the magazine Marie Claire are hosting an invitation-only luncheon and reception with special guests Pelosi, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, and Ashley Judd. And on Wednesday night, NARAL Pro-Choice America is throwing a celebration featuring Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, as a special guest.

The events aren’t just aimed at rallying the party faithful. The aim is to energize supporters who can in turn help to mobilize women voters in battleground states.

Obama enjoys an advantage over GOP nominee Mitt Romney with women voters overall, but his lead is even larger among young, unmarried women. Crucial for Democrats is ensuring that these voters go to the polls. Even though jobs and the economy are the top issues in the election, the abortion issue resonates strongly with some women voters.

“Much of the election will depend on the turnout of unmarried women, who overwhelmingly vote for Obama,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.

Well aware of this data, the Romney camp tried to attract female voters in Tampa last week by scheduling Ann Romney and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in key, televised speaking slots.

Still, the polling on women voters has remained fairly consistent. Roughly 50 percent of women prefer Obama, while 42 percent favor Romney—and that margin has held true since April, according to Gallup data.

This year’s Senate race in Missouri has struck another blow to Republicans’ attempts to win over women. Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican Senate nominee, told a television reporter in late August that, in cases of “legitimate rape,” women’s bodies can shut down to prevent pregnancy.

The ensuing firestorm mobilized Democratic female voters who support abortion rights, so much so that they’re now a focus of this week’s activities in Charlotte.

“The Republicans have gone after this retro agenda that they started as soon as they took over the House in 2010, whereas the president has a fabulous record on women’s issues. The contrast couldn’t be any clearer right now,” said Jess McIntosh, a spokeswoman for EMILY’s List.

McIntosh added that the 2012 Democratic National Convention is the biggest convention presence yet for EMILY’s List. The lineup of convention speakers certainly reinforces that, with first lady Michelle Obama and Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren in prominent podium slots.

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