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In Hard Economic Times, Obama Woos Female Voters
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In Hard Economic Times, Obama Woos Female Voters
In Hard Economic Times, Obama Woos Female Voters
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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

President Obama is making his last big campaign push before the midterm elections. The president is spending part of today in Seattle talking with women about the economy. Mr. Obama was in Portland yesterday, where NPR White House correspondent and Portland aficionado Ari Shapiro looked in to how women have fared during the economy downturn.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ARI SHAPIRO: The Helen Gordon Child Center is only for Portland State University students and staff who have kids. So these are folks who are doing OK. But their success feels tenuous. Emily Partine is leaving her two-year-old daughter in the toddlers room, where kids are painting in the corner.

Ms. EMILY PARTINE: To continue keeping her here in daycare, I have to go to school, you know, taking at least eight credits while I work full time. So -and I'm a single mom. So it's hard.

SHAPIRO: That's a full time job, a full time course load, and single parenting. She would prefer not to be a student, but her job doesn't pay enough to afford daycare without the student discount.�Partine has sent out dozens of resumes looking for higher-paying jobs, with no luck. The lead teacher here is Rebecca Albright. This is her eighth year at the child care center.

Ms. REBECCA ALBRIGHT: I had thought that when I got my Master's degree I'd be making more money, but with the recession that hasn't - I've stayed in the same position, mainly to have the excellent health care benefits.

SHAPIRO: Albright has a 22-month-old daughter with special needs.�

Ms. ALBRIGHT: And she had brain surgery in July, so most of our money - any extra money that we had up until then we were just saving to sort of get us through the recovery and the medical costs of the brain surgery. But little things that shouldn't be the end of the world, like we just got rear-ended, have been a really big deal, because we don't have the money for the deductible. We don't have, you know, we just don't have any excess income right now.

SHAPIRO: Albright says when they can pay the bills, that's a great day. And she's not used to living like this.�She and her husband are from well-educated families, but right now they're well below their parents' standard of living.�She doesn't sound self-pitying.�

Instead, she says, she feels bad for the students who come work at this daycare center, then graduate without a job, without a way to pay back student loans. Many of them come back and work here as substitute teachers.�

Ms. ALBRIGHT: Even people that have advanced degrees in child development are still here with Masters degrees working for 20, 25 thousand dollars a year.

SHAPIRO: I invited Professor Mary King of Portland State to eavesdrop on these conversations with me.�She's a labor economist who studies women and the economy.�Sitting on a couch in the toddler room, she told me men were hit by this recession early on.�Construction and manufacturing tend to employ men, and those were the industries that suffered first.�

Professor MARY KING (Portland State): What we're really seeing now is the impact on the public sector. Women are huge in the public sector - teachers, clerical workers - and so they're being laid off or having their hours cut.

SHAPIRO: She says Obama administration economic policies helped.�For example, the White House pushed a bill to keep teachers from losing their jobs.�But preventing job losses is not the same as creating jobs.�

Prof. KING: You know, the backfill into state and local government just keeps what we thought of as the status quo, but absolutely those keep women's jobs. And it's the same argument that Obama faces with the stimulus as a whole. Yes, there was an impact, but not so big that people perceive it. They don't realize what would've happened if that spending hadn't occurred.

SHAPIRO: This is the case President Obama will make during a backyard town hall meeting in Seattle today.�His National Economic Council released a report this morning arguing that the White House's economic policies have benefited women in the last two years.�

The report points to the first bill President Obama signed - the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.�The report also talks about the health care bill, the small business bill, and others.�

In a conference call with reporters, presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett spun that report into a partisan political argument.�

Ms. VALERIE JARRETT (Presidential Advisor): If the Republicans in Congress have their way, many of the economic policies that have been helping millions of American women would no longer be in place.

SHAPIRO: Women voters typically favor Democrats, and that gender gap can push a Democratic candidate to victory. But women have to go to the polls for that to happen.�President Obama is trying to convince them that in these tough economic times - between a full time job, student coursework, and parenting - a trip to the voting booth needs to be a women's priority as well.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, traveling with the president.�

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