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Published: Friday, 10/1/2004

Women voters need to trust facts, not feelings

LADIES, can we talk? Polls taken in mid-September show some serious shifts in the female vote. Surveys in 13 states expected to be close on Election Day suggest we're leaning more to the right instead of the left and I'm breaking out in a rash wondering why.

Democrats usually do better than Republicans with us women folk on domestic issues like education, health care, Social Security, the economy, and the environment. On the other hand, we want strong, macho men fearlessly protecting our shores from outside threats, a role traditionally reserved for Republicans. This year the GOP is in luck. The nail-biting presidential race will ultimately be decided on one, overriding voter concern: security at home.

OK, ladies, this is where we need to start thinking with our heads and not the emotional-fuzzy side. Frankly, going with our "it just seems right" feelings instead of the facts has gotten us into a fair amount of trouble in the past, right?

So why do we keep doing it? One 50-year-old female Bush backer told pollsters she didn't "feel much strength" coming from John Kerry and concluded "terrorists would feel they have more of an edge" with him.

I feel embarrassed for my gender. Listen, the political sages picking apart the nuances of likely voters in the upcoming election have settled on a key demographic they believe could decide who works in the Oval Office next year. Instead of "soccer moms" driving their kids around in minivans, the major parties are now focused on "security moms" driving their kids around in minivans.

Conventional campaign wisdom says security from terrorism is the dominant concern among women, particularly women with children. The candidate perceived as the better protector of home and hearth wins.

The Republicans have an effective two-part strategy to sway female support from the Kerry-Edwards campaign. First, they scare mothers of children with ominous predictions of terrorist attacks - really violent ones if the Democrats prevail - and then soothe the apprehensive with assurances of safety and security.

Bring up the slaughter of school children in Russia that every parent of grade school kids can relate to, and the GOP clinches the deal. The message is simple. Trust the party that protects, the stakes are too high to change. It's aimed directly at women and it's working. Among women, Democrat Kerry is lagging well behind his predecessor in 2000, who won 54 percent of the female vote.

In Ohio, according to a recent poll, the female vote was split 47-44 for President Bush. Sisters, before you vote your fears remember one security mom the GOP would rather you forget. Sue Niederer, a New Jersey mother whose 24-year-old son was killed in Iraq, isn't buying the security-first rhetoric of the Bush-Cheney camp.

She not only grieves the loss of her boy, she's bitter he was sent to die in a country that had no nukes, no biological weapons, and no hardware to mass produce anything - all the main reasons given for waging pre-emptive war.

Wearing a T-shirt that said "President Bush, You Killed My Son," the bereaved mom went to a campaign appearance by Laura Bush and began blurting out questions to the First Lady.

Only this security mom wasn't afforded any special treatment. She was shouted down by the audience, escorted out by police, and subsequently handcuffed and led away in a van. End of problem. One distraught mother of a dead American soldier is no political threat - yet.

When such a small percentage of the entire country carries the military burden for all it's easy for the President to persuade those largely unaffected to stick with the candidate who has camouflaged himself as a leader in the war on terror. Make the sacrifice universal with a return of the draft and it won't be that easy. Let that sink in to mothers of teenaged kids.

The seeds being sown today by the self-described wartime president could have Americans drafted to myriad war fronts in a few years. The war on terror was so diminished by the Bush Administration's unnecessary diversion into Iraq, who knows how far it grew while Washington busied itself with nation-building.

Ladies, be fearful of those who thought nothing of sending the young sons and daughters of more than a thousand American families to their deaths on false pretenses.

Think of Sue Niederer. In time her grief could be yours, God forbid. Talk about it among yourselves for your children's sake. Please.



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