The countdown to the caucuses in Iowa and New Hampshire has begun. Recent poll results indicate that women not only make up a significant block of undecided voters, but even those in New Hampshire who have decided on a candidate are predisposed to switching their allegiance if their candidate does not win in Iowa. Before Christmas, candidates ran ad campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire replete with holiday greetings. If I were communications director or media strategist to a frontrunner, I would now suggest running ad campaigns that address issues of concern to women.
In the days before Christmas, several candidates ventured into previously uncharted territory, and ran ad campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire -- some of which waxed sentimental. There was Barack Obama and his family sitting beside a Christmas tree and fireplace; Hillary Clinton wrapped presents labeled with cards imprinted "Bringing Our Troops Home"; and Rudy Giuliani kept company with Santa Claus and talked about his wishes. Mike Huckabee greeted viewers saying, "At this time of year, sometimes it's nice to pull aside...and remember that what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ, and being with our family and friends. I hope that you and your family will have a magnificent Christmas season. And on behalf of all of us, God bless, and Merry Christmas".
Now that the holidays are behind us, and all eyes are on Iowa, it is an appropriate time to launch ad campaigns addressing issues of importance to women voters. Last Wednesday, I participated in Lifetime's Every Woman Counts audio press conference where the results of a new Zogby/Lifetime Television poll were released. The poll results shed light on how women will vote in the presidential race and on the concerns that motivate them -- even if the issues vary somewhat by age and party affiliation.
So you ask, why focus on women? One significant finding of the polls is that women will likely be very important to the outcome of the race to the White House. More than nine in 10 women said they planned to vote; more than six in ten say this is the most important election of their lifetime. Moderates are equally influential -- and 62 percent of moderates are women.
In the Zogby/Lifetime poll, education ranks as the number one issue nationally for likely voters, followed closely by jobs and the economy, healthcare and the war in Iraq. Equal pay ranked higher than foreign policy, immigration and the environment -- an issue that has not received a great deal of attention on the campaign trail. Young women ages 18 to 24 cited prevention of domestic abuse and sexual assault as their number one issue, tied with education. In New Hampshire, the war in Iraq is still the number one issue, followed by healthcare.
Additionally, the Zogby/Lifetime poll has identified a possible "Iowa Effect". One in four New Hampshire women -- especially Republican women -- said they would actually switch their allegiance if their candidate does not win in Iowa.
At the beginning of December, there was talk about Barack Obama getting in touch with his 'feminine side.' In a new video and speeches targeted at women, Mr. Obama was portrayed as sensitized not only to the needs but also aspirations of women, "a man comfortable with strong women in his life." He said, "I know what it's like to be raised by a single mom who's trying to work and go to school and raise two kids at the same time, doesn't have any support from the father. These are issues I'm passionate about." Let's hope he continues down this road. Moreover, as we count down the days left to the Iowa caucus and the media blitz increases, maybe other candidates will follow this trend and run ad campaigns addressing issues dear to their female constituents.