SEATTLE—Women came out strong for Barack Obama in 2008. Now, with barely 10 days before the midterm elections that are looking increasingly perilous for his party, he is trying to win them back.
Obama turned his attention Thursday to convincing the female voters who helped deliver the presidency to him not to abandon the Democratic Party in its hour of need. In a series of orchestrated events, the White House sought to make the case the Obama’s two years in office have already been a boon to women all over the country.
Campaigning on behalf of Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, Obama talked about his daughters, his wife (she knows more about the family budget than he does, he said) and his grandmother (she worked her way up to vice president of a bank but hit the proverbial glass ceiling). He even talked about a 16-year-old girl who recently visited the White House after winning a science competition.
“She designed a new drug” to treat cancer, Obama said during a backyard event for women at a Seattle home. “Now she’s being contacted by all these labs right now.”
The outreach to women — which came on the same day that the White House released a report that said Obama’s policies, including the health care and economic stimulus bills, have helped women overall — is part of a push to cement a Democratic firewall that White House officials are hoping will stem losses in November.
Women are one of the most important pillars of that wall.
“Make sure you’re as fired up and as excited now as you were two years ago,” Obama told a raucous rally at the University of Washington. “I need Patty Murray back in the United States Senate.”
But for all of the cheers at Thursday’s campaign events, it remains unclear whether women will be there for Obama.
Women have historically outnumbered men at the polls and also tend to favor Democratic candidates. But there are indications, polls show, that some women have grown ambivalent, or discouraged about the economy in recent months, and might be inclined to skip voting altogether this time.
With the balance of power in the Senate and House at stake, that possibility has stirred a new wave of worry both from party leaders and within campaigns. For some campaigns, women are seen as a last hope to cling to seats that otherwise appear likely to be won by Republicans.
In states like Wisconsin and Florida, campaign commercials featuring women and issues like education, children’s health, stem cell research or abortion rights have emerged. Emily’s List, the group that raises money for female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, has begun conducting phone banks aimed at these possible “drop off” women voters in California, New Hampshire and Washington, and creating election commercials related to issues like a cervical cancer vaccine placed, for instance, on Hulu before “Glee” — in hopes of reaching younger, single women, a heavily Democratic-leaning group.