Week In Politics: Polls, Women's Vote

David Greene speaks with Morning Edition regular contributor Cokie Roberts about the week in politics.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And China is expected to come up tonight at the third and final presidential debate here in the United States. The hotly contested presidential election will take place two weeks from tomorrow.

As we do most Mondays, we turn to Cokie Roberts to sort out the state of play. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: Well, you know, this race looks almost dead-even.

ROBERTS: It does, indeed.

GREENE: It sure does.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: But some of the polls seem to be kind of all over the place, depending on how you slice up the electorate. I mean, help us sort this out, if you can.

ROBERTS: Well, the Gallup Poll, which does daily tracking, has been showing Romney substantially ahead of President Obama, but it seems to be the outlier. Most of the polls are showing this dead heat. And there was one out over the weekend of NBC-Wall Street Journal that shows them at 47/47. And I think that's where we are. I mean, that's pretty much where this race has been from the beginning. It is essentially a tied race and puts special emphasis on the debate tonight. And the thing that seems to be moving around is the women's vote, and that's got pollsters scratching their heads.

GREENE: The women's vote is something we talk about every election, how important a role women play. Is there something different happening this year? Is this just the reality of every election, that women are really important?

ROBERTS: Well, if they - yes, they are really important because, you know, it's the majority of the vote. But it has always been, and I suspect it is again this time around, an economic vote. People are always talking about abortion and women's rights and all that stuff. But women vote on the economy, and it's basically the role of government. It's totally understandable.

It's not that women like government, but they don't dislike it as much as men do. And when you look at the reasons for it, look at who gets government programs. It's people on Medicare and social security, the two biggest government programs, tend to be women. I mean, men would like you to live that long. You don't. And who's taking care of the people on Medicare and Social Security? Women.

Who's likely to be working in schools, hospitals, arts councils, libraries, government-run institutions? Women. So that is why we see a very different women's vote in most elections. But it is possible this year that this whole question - not of abortion, because abortion is a settled issue. People either feel strongly for it or against it.

But on these other issues - contraception, the funding of Planned Parenthood, where the Democrats are just going all out in their ads to try to scare women away from Governor Romney - it's possible that this year, that those issues will have some resonance of whether women feel welcome in the Republican Party in the same way that African-Americans have been turned off on civil rights issues and Hispanics have been turned off on immigration issues, it's possible that women are feeling turned off on those issues.

And, of course, the Democrats are really going after them. But I think that, you know, where we end up still is tied, and we could have a very interesting election with the Electoral College going one way and the popular vote going another way.

GREENE: Which, of course, we saw in 2000, when Al Gore won the popular vote, but not the election.

ROBERTS: And this time around, I think it would be the other way. You know, for years, the Republicans - everybody's talked about the Republicans having an Electoral College lock. But this time around, you could see the Republican winning the popular vote because the red states are really, really red. But they're not great, big states, like California, New York, Illinois. Yes, Texas, but, you know, not the other big ones, and that's why Florida and Ohio are so key.

GREENE: Cokie, in the few seconds we have left, George McGovern lost in a blowout election to Richard Nixon in 1972. McGovern died yesterday, and as I understand it, you knew him well.

ROBERTS: Yes, and he was a totally lovely man. He said, after that election, that going back to the Senate was very tough. It wasn't until he won again in '74 that he felt welcome, but then he was really welcome. Bob Doyle has a beautiful op-ed about him today in The Washington Post.

GREENE: All right, Cokie. Always good to be with you, and we'll hear more about George McGovern's legacy elsewhere in the program.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION, on NPR News.

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