Sunday, April 30, 2000

Women could be GOP power

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — Mary Anne Christie, a real-estate agent from Anderson Township, sensed something was different when she heard a Republican bigwig complain about corporate welfare.

        The party of tax breaks and get-government-off-my-back is worried about handouts to big business? Not only that, speaker after speaker at the Republican Women Leaders Forum here stressed the importance of education, a topic the GOP had for years considered a state concern.

        “Could you imagine Republicans talking about corporate welfare?” Mrs. Christie said. “This shows how we've changed. I think the party has to look at ways to become more diversified.”

        Over orange juice and muffins and jokes about President Clinton, Republican leaders asked Mrs. Christie and other conservative women last week to do the work necessary at home to broaden the party's appeal.

        Women voters, who were drawn toward Mr. Clinton in 1992 and 1996, could determine which party takes the White House and whether Republicans keep a majority in Congress after the November elections. National opinion polls show Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the likely Republican nominee, leading Vice President Al Gore overall, but some surveys have Mr. Bush trailing Mr. Gore by six to 10 percentage points among women.

        Mrs. Christie doesn't need much coaxing. “We need to put someone in the White House that the American people can hold up as a role model,” she said.

        But unlike most of the conservative women here — many wearing blue “W. is for Women” stickers — Mrs. Christie gives Mr. Clinton some credit for understanding the social changes that influence how women approach politics. Women now make up nearly half of the work force and are as concerned about pay, benefits and taxes as men. At the same time, women also make many of the household decisions, so issues such as child care, education and health care also resonate.

        Although women preferred Mr. Clinton much more than men, there is no historical trend to confirm the idea that women favor Democrats over Republicans in presidential campaigns.

        Since the 1950s, according to the Gallup Organization, women have sided with the winner in all but three elections.


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