Why Hillary is Losing Women (posted January 17, 2000)

The gender gap has been a staple of American elections since it first appeared in the 1980 presidential contest between Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republican Ronald Reagan. Frightened by Reagan's bellicose rhetoric and plans to increase spending on the military, women became more likely to vote Democratic while men tended to vote Republican. In every presidential campaign since that time, the gender gap has been present.

Now women are taking a close look at Hillary Rodham Clinton's New York Senate race, and according to recent polls, aren't very happy with what they are seeing. For example a recent poll by Marist College showed Mrs. Clinton and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani each receiving 44 percent of the vote among females. This represents a sharp change from a year ago when Clinton led Giuliani by 58 to 34 percent among women.

What is happening to Hillary Clinton and the women's vote? Why is she doing poorly among women and why is Giuliani doing so well? The key is two-fold. Now that the President Bill Clinton impeachment saga is over, some women are disappointed about how the First Lady handled the scandal. Rather than take her husband to the woodshed, she defended him and blamed Republicans for a right-wing conspiracy.

In addition, Mrs. Clinton's move to New York amidst GOP criticisms of carpet-bagging have raised doubts about whether the First Lady understands the concerns of New Yorkers and can effectively represent their point of view. While this concern cuts across gender lines, women may be more sensitive to the idea that Hillary Clinton doesn't understand their perspective.

 Without strong support among women, Mrs. Clinton will have difficulty turning around this race. Watch for her in coming months to attempt to shore up her support among this crucial group. Unless she can win women back, it will be a long year for the First Lady.