Democratic Candidates Vie for Female Vote With a female candidate in the presidential race, the field of Democratic candidates realize that reaching out for the "women's vote" will take a completely new approach.
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Democratic Candidates Vie for Female Vote

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Democratic Candidates Vie for Female Vote

Democratic Candidates Vie for Female Vote

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Well, just as Barack Obama has no luck on the black vote in the presidential race, Senator Clinton has no guarantee that she will corner the women's vote.

NPR's Allison Keyes reports.

(Soundbite of cheers)

ALLISON KEYES: Hillary Clinton recently hosted a rally aimed specifically at young women in Washington, D.C., where she made a special appeal to voters under 30.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): I want you to be part of what I want to do for America. Thank you all very much.

KEYES: Organizers said 8,000 turned out to watch a veritable who's who of powerful women - from former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, to tennis great Billie Jean King, to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright - exhort other females to make history.

Ann Lewis is the Clinton campaign senior adviser and director of women's outreach.

Ms. ANN LEWIS (Senior Adviser, Senator Hillary Clinton's Campaign): We know a lot about how women talk to one another about what's important. We don't use political jargon. We don't use rhetoric. We do talk about what we care about.

KEYES: Lewis says the campaign is asking its female supporters to personally reach out to other women telling them…

Ms. LEWIS: Women know you. They trust you. Now, start talking to them about this campaign. Talk to them about what Hillary is doing and why it's so important.

KEYES: But the other Democratic candidates haven't written off the female vote.

Betsy Myers is chief operating officer and chair-of-women for Illinois Senator Barack Obama. She says they're seeing increased numbers of women at his fundraisers and 60 percent of their online participants are women.

Myers says the Obama campaign's outreach includes a variety of strategies, including forums, rallies and having his wife, Michelle, engage women at various events.

Ms. BETSY MYERS (Chief Operating Officer, Senator Barack Obama's campaign): We need to get back to talking to women about the issues that matter to them, going out into the communities, out into this country to have that conversation, to include them in the process.

KEYES: Myers says the campaign has a specific budget for appealing to women, though she declined to share it. She also says the campaign is working to appeal to women of color because of his support among African-Americans.

Some candidates - like former Senator John Edwards - are taking the tack that women shouldn't be treated as a separate entity.

Senior campaign adviser, Kate Michelman.

Ms. KATE MICHELMAN (Senior campaign adviser, John Edwards' campaign): John Edwards' campaign treats people as people across the board rather than as demographic groups.

KEYES: Michelman acknowledges there is a women for Edwards' component and he does discuss women-centric issues like health care and equal pay. But, she says, the last thing women want is for people to assume that they are monolithic and will all vote for a female candidate.

Ms. MICHELMAN: Women voters are going to be looking at the candidate's views, the candidate's values, the kind of person the candidate is, and where the candidate wants to take this country.

KEYES: Smaller operations - like those of Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Dennis Kucinich - say their candidates have done events aimed at engaging women.

But Kucinich's wife, Elizabeth, says her husband's campaign is all-inclusive.

Ms. ELIZABETH KUCINICH (Representative Dennis Kucinich's wife): If you carve off, you know, women away from men or men away from women, you're actually negating your very message that you're trying to put out there.

KEYES: Nonpartisan women's groups like Mom's Rising and Women's Voices Women Vote, a group for unmarried women, are hoping this presidential race puts women's issues squarely on the national political stage.

But many women who attended the Clinton rally, like Susan Barbarak(ph) of Fairfax, Virginia, brought their daughters, saying they wanted to raise confident women who believe they can do anything.

Ms. SUSAN BARBARAK: I just think it's a really important day, important milestone, not just for the public, but for women as well, especially for young ladies coming up to see what's possible and to hear what she stands for.

KEYES: Susan's 10-year-old daughter, Rachel, was wearing an I-can-be-president button.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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