Obama Pursues Female Voters - TheStreet

Obama Pursues Female Voters

The Illinois senator is pulling out all the stops to win over working-class women -- and those who supported former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
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This week, Sen. Barack Obama has made a major effort to curry favor with female voters, particularly those who supported Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

He has continued the hiring of former Clinton staffers, including director of women's outreach Dana Singiser, and has backed a

series of proposals

to aid working-class women.

Obama's rapprochement with former Clinton supporters has been difficult. The first former Clinton staffer he hired was Patti Solis-Doyle, the New York senator's erstwhile campaign manager whom many blame for sinking the candidacy. Solis-Doyle has been hired as the chief of staff to the vice-presidential candidate. This has caused more hissing because many interpret this to mean Clinton has been snubbed as a No. 2.

Singiser could solidify support with her contacts and experience with women's groups.

Obama also hired Neera Tanden, Clinton's top policy wonk, in June.

Obama also has agreed to take on retiring Clinton's campaign debt, though reports suggest the effort is progressing slowly.

Wednesday, the campaign highlighted significant policy proposals targeted at working-class women.

Studies show that many women earn substantially less than men working in similar jobs. Currently, women earn about 77 cents on the dollar compared with men, and comparisons for minority women are even lower. Obama strongly supports equal pay for equal work. He co-sponsored and voted in favor of such an act in the Illinois Senate.

Earlier this year the Supreme Court disallowed the appeal of Lilly Ledbetter (Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.) by a 5-4 vote because she failed to file her suit in a timely fashion. Ledbetter had been a supervisor for


(GT) - Get Report

and found out years later that she had been paid less than her male counterparts. Advocates for women were outraged. Obama immediately joined a group of senators in co-sponsoring legislation to remedy the ruling: the Fair Pay Restoration Act. He also co-sponsors the Fair Pay Act.

Obama's campaign doesn't stop there. He has endorsed: increasing the minimum wage, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit, providing additional credits for child and dependent care, providing sick leave benefit in low wage and part-time jobs, expanding Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), expanding flexible work schedules, encouraging state adoption of FMLA, stopping caregiver discrimination, and creating and expanding workplace retirement benefits.

The Obama campaign explicitly points out that Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) hasn't followed suit on any of these proposals. The McCain campaign has a Women for McCain tab on its Web site, but he has no specific proposals to target former Clinton supporters.

McCain's most visible and vocal supporter who might help him get the female vote is Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

. Fiorina may have a hard time winning over pro-choice women. On Monday, she contradicted the McCain campaign's pro-life position by suggesting that women want consumer choice in birth control:

"... A real, live example which I've been hearing a lot about from women: There are many health insurance plans that will cover Viagra but won't cover birth-control medication. Those women would like a choice."

I suspect Fiorina won't use the word "choice" again. McCain has endorsed the repeal of Roe vs. Wade. Although Obama supports Roe vs. Wade, his recent endorsement of President Bush's faith-based initiatives has many female Democratic voters

questioning his courting of religious organizations

opposed to abortion.

Obama still has to prove himself with Democratic women. He and Clinton appeared Wednesday night in New York City at a fundraiser. There's no word yet on whether Clinton has a chance at being chosen as a running mate -- the strongest move Obama could make to pick up female voters who supported Clinton -- though speculation increased after the two flew together to the fundraiser with two vetters from Obama's vice-presidential selection team.