Are women deserting Gore?
Gender gap may not help Democratic front-runner in 2000
April 29, 1999
WASHINGTON (April 29) - For seven years, women voters have solidly supported Bill Clinton: They sent him to the White House in 1992, and kept him there in 1996. Will that support transfer to Vice President Al Gore?
Not automatically, at least according to the polls. In 1996, Clinton beat Bob Dole among women by 16 points, easily overcoming Dole's lead among men.
In our latest 2000 hypothetical match-up, a complete and dramatic reversal: George W. Bush is beating Gore among women by 18 points. And it's not just Bush. That same mid-April CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll shows Elizabeth Dole ahead among women by 14 points.
What's going on? Dole's pollster, Linda DiVall, believes unease over the president's Kosovo policy is dragging Gore down, and she sees evidence of scandal fatigue.
"Voters are not inclined to further reward President Clinton or Vice President Gore and forgive those transgressions by giving Al Gore a blank check at the voter box in 2000. So he has a little bit higher bar to cross, I think, because he also has to overcome some of Bill Clinton's personal problems," DiVall told CNN.
But Gore's pollster, Mark Penn insists "it's really too early to look at these horse-race numbers and make any conclusions about how women are going to vote in 2000."
Penn says Democratic women are solidly behind Gore, and that the independents will come around.
"Independent women don't know Al Gore yet, haven't heard his full message. As they hear where he stands on education, health care, crime, Social Security, Medicare -- when they hear where he stands on these issues, I think they're going to look at his leadership, look at the kind of things that he's going to do for families, and they're going to say, you know, Al Gore is my choice," said Penn.
But if Gore's early weakness among women holds up, it could point to a fundamental realignment in American politics.
For 20 years, women have tended to vote Democratic, the so-called gender gap. If the Republicans close that gap, they'd break one of the foundations of Democratic power, and have something to really cheer about in 2000.
The Gore camp is quick to note that the 2000 election is a year and half away, more than enough time to turn around the polls. As evidence, they cite Clinton's performance in 1996; 18 months before the election, polls showed Clinton in a dead heat with Dole.
We all know what happened after that.
Thursday, April 29, 1999
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