The war over women voters continued in the heart of Washington D.C. today. As Barack Obama surrogates lambasted the opposition on pay equity, health care and social security, a former Hillary Clinton fundraiser held a press conference to announce her endorsement of John McCain. Noticeably absent from the discussion, however, was anything on reproductive rights and, perhaps more tellingly, any mention of John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin.
"American women have the most to gain by the election of Barack Obama and the most to lose by the election of John McCain," argued House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "Consider the record. On equal pay for women, Barack Obama says yes, John McCain says no. Barack Obama says equal pay for women is essential. John McCain says women get paid less because they need more education and training... On health care for ten million American children, Barack Obama says yes, John McCain says no."
Appearing at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, Pelosi and several other prominent female House Democrats stuck to the script handed down from Obama headquarters. Focusing on economic matters, they painted McCain as drastically out of touch with female voter priorities. Asked whether the Democratic Party was concerned about the defection of Hillary Clinton supporters to McCain's candidacy, they were defiant.
"Sen. Clinton waged a magnificent campaign and we are all very proud of her candidacy," Pelosi said. "By and large her supporters are backing Barack Obama." All the members there who supported Clinton raised and waved their hands. "A few of them are here."
Thirty minutes later one of those Clinton supporters, Lady Lynn De Rothschild, took to the GOP Capitol Hill Club to announce to a room of cameras and press that she would be backing the McCain-Palin ticket.
"I find it to be complete nonsense and just not credible to say that John McCain is an extension of George Bush," she declared. "Did you watch John McCain take on George Bush and criticize the Bush administration handling of the war in Iraq? Did you see him criticize the Bush administration's handling of Katrina? Did you watch him vote against the Bush energy bill that Barack Obama voted for?"
The nearly simultaneous press conferences offered an insight into just how pitched the battle for female voters has become. Indeed, multiple speakers cast this election as the most important vote of their lifetimes.
"We understand that this November the stakes cannot be higher for women of this nation," said Rosa DeLauro, of Connecticut. "This election can be a turning point for women hit so hard by this economy."
And yet, some topics remained un-addressed. Normally a rallying cry for progressive females, McCain's stringent pro-life position (not to mention Palin's stance that abortion should be prohibited even in cases of rape and incest) was never raised.
"We will be talking about those issues in the election. We think given the economic news of the last few days the issue really on women's mind is the economy and health care," explained Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado.
Palin, likewise, was an elephant in the room at the DNC headquarters. Had her ascension on the political scene disrupted the inroads Obama had made with women voters? Was it an uncomfortable proposition to campaign against the first potential female vice president? The participants wouldn't address the topic.
"As you may have noticed, the women here today are talking about Sen. McCain and the reason is because McCain is the presidential nominee," said DeGette. "The Obama campaign has long planned to send women out to talk to women and families, to talk about the Obama plan versus the McCain one. That is why the focus is really on Sen. McCain, because Gov. Palin is the vice presidential nominee and really, I would think, her plans and platforms are the same as the nominee."