Men hold nearly 90 percent of elected offices according to a survey by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, mostly because men aspire to achieve powerful positions nearly three times as much as women. But for more than 20 years registered women have been voting at higher rates than men, meaning that campaigns are designing messages to cater to women. As the two presidential campaigns descended on Las Vegas this week KNPR's Ky Plaskon takes a look at their messages to women in southern Nevada.
ENTERTAINERSo lets get this thing started, so how is everybody this afternoon?
PLASKON: The nearly 1 thousand invited guests, more women than men sat in rough orange chairs at UNLV's Hamm Hall for a Bush-Cheney campaign party.
ENTERTAINER: All right, all right. Well you know all around the world at some point people just kinda gotta let loose and have a little fun, from Europe to South America to the good old US of A at some point people just gotta shake it . . . lets dance."
PLASKON: All kinds of singing and dancing were sprinkled between speeches by Nevada's First Lady Dema Guinn and Legislative Assemblywoman Loraine Hunt. Nearly 45 minutes past the scheduled appearance of First Lady Laura Bush, Wayne Newton came out.
NEWTON: She is a little nervous and I told her there is no reason to be because Nevadans are the most loving compassionate people in the world and we are thrilled beyond words that you are here. Ladies and Gentleman Ms. Laura Bush.
PLASKON: Laura Bush told the crowd to vote for her husband George because she says his management of the war on terror has freed 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq.
MRS BUSH: Today women can walk freely in public without male supervision . . . millions of girls are going to school many for the first time in their lives. Today they are building a democracy. Iroqis have a constitution that protects the rights of women as well as ethnic and religious minorities. We must be vigilant in protecting the rights of all Iraqis."
PLASKON: And she credited President Bush's tax cuts for helping small business, adding that America has experienced the fastest growth in 20 years with skyrocketing homeownership rates. Women tend to be Democrats, but the Bush Campaign has an effort to attract more women Laura Bush said.
MRS BUSH: W stands for Women. Over the next five months they will be talking to women about the presidents achievements for women in America and around the world.
SPEECH ATTENDEE: Oh I thought it was great, I just liked how sincere she was and a lot of what she had to say made sense.
PLASKON: An aura of honesty is exactly what the Bush Campaign is trying to convey to women by sending Laura Bush according to UNLV Political Science Professor David Demour.
DEMOUR: She is a friendly, non-abrasive person as opposed to bringing out Cheney. She can talk about family all the soft kinds of things.
PLASKON: But as with all voters, addressing issues is attractive to women according to Kay Maxwell, President of the League of Women Voters, a Nation-wide non-partisan voter education group.
MAXWELL: What we hear from people who get turned off is that candidates is that they don't hear candidates talk about the issues that they care about. And so I think it is important that candidates focus on the issues and people want to know what a candidate is going to do.
PLASKON: Ms Bush did strike a chord by addressing the issue of prisoner abuse.
SPEECH ATTENDEE: The comments that she made about our military people. The pictures that we have seen in the news does not represent all of our men and women.
PLASKON: But the rosy economic picture Ms Bush painted isn't doesn't resonate with women today according to Marie Wilson, President of the non-partisan White House Project, a group that works to get more women into elected office. She says most women see the economy as strained.
WILSON: Women know that because they buy the bread and butter and they are the ones dealing with the schools they know that their kids can't get into libraries because libraries are closing early, what cuts are happening in the states and so women deal with this every day and so you have to speak to the majority of women in the country who's daily lives are not reflecting that reality.
PLASKON: For that reason she says women traditionally vote democratic. With the election considered to be close around the nation and in Nevada, democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry isn't taking women for granted. He's going after a niche women's voting market.
SOUND: Conference Call
PLASKON: A few hours before the Laura Bush campaign party, less than a dozen women business owners filled a fraction of a conference room at the Rio Hotel Casino. They sit and stare at a gray conference call box.
CALLER: Is Senator Kerry ready to get on the phone?
KERRY: Senator Kerry is on the phone listening to all these instructions.
PLASKON: About 2-thousand women around the nation were on this conference call. Kerry didn't talk about the war in Iraq or the economy directly. He told them that since 1985 women-owned businesses growth has outpaced all other businesses combined.
KERRY: And what's more staggering is that the growth in employment is now double that of all other companies, so the lesson is pretty clear: If you want more jobs, we need to continue to empower women in business in the country.
PLASKON: He said he wants 23 percent of government contracts to go to small business and fulfill a women's procurement law passed in 2000. It requires 5 percent of the nations 300 billion dollars in government contracts go to women-owned businesses. This appeals to small business owners who are anything but a shoe in for Kerry according to UNLV Political Science Professor David Demour.
DEMOUR: On the Kerry front, generally small business owners generally vote republican and so that is a little strategic in that maybe you can split these because women have a tendency in general to vote democratic, so these are voters that can swing one way or another.
PLASKON: The women business owner constituency is powerful because according to the non-partisan Women Impacting Public Policy, businesswomen vote at nearly double the rate of the general population. Calanit Atia is a local business owner who listened to Kerry.
ATIA: No, I am not going to vote for John Kerry, I am going to vote for Bush, if the democratic candidate would have said I would continue the fight on terrorism, I would have voted for John Kerry. He keeps forgetting that the economy went down because of the terrorist attacks.
PLASKON: Kerry's message was lacking for this Israli-bourn Democrat. She plans to vote Republican because continuing the war on terror speaks more loudly to the safety and security of her business.
Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR
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