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Expert: Focus Will Be on Women in Home Stretch of Mass Senate Race

Thursday, August 23, 2012


With just 75 days to go until the election, one expert says the US Senate contest in Massachusetts between Republican Senator Scott Brown and Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren will come down to mobilizing supporters and courting women voters.

Women Voters Will Be The Difference

"The women's vote is an important vote this race," said Michael Walsh, a lawyer and professor of Political Science at Westfield State University.

"The notion that women vote for women in all circumstances is just a fallacy," Walsh said, noting that several studies have indicated that female swing voters will split ballots on a fairly regular basis.

Courting the Female Vote

Both the Brown campaign and the Warren campaign have redoubled their efforts to secure the votes of women throughout the Commonwealth.

With wife Gail Huff Brown on the campaign trail, the Senator's "Women for Brown" initiative has been a success, observers say.

Warren launched her own grassroots initiative, "Women for Warren," last week to celebrate the anniversary of women securing the right to vote.

Social Issues Come to the Fore

The flap by Missouri Representative and Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin in an interview last weekend provided the Warren campaign with some additional firepower.

Warren released a new radio ad featuring a sound bite of Rep. Akin stating, "If it's legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

"This can't be happening in 2012, right?" asks the announcer.

The Republican National Convention's recently announced platform, with its across-the-board prohibition on abortion, hasn't done the GOP any favors among women voters.

Brown was quick to release a statement of his own on Tuesday responding to the platform and calling for a more inclusive stance on abortion.

"Even while I am pro-choice, I respect those who have a different opinion on this very difficult and sensitive issue," Brown said.

"Our Party platform should make the same concession to those of us who believe in a woman's right to choose."

The Senator also distanced himself from Akin as soon as the representative's statements became widely known.

"Brown was very nimble in jumping out in front of that story, painting Akin as fringe and far-right," Walsh said. "He handled that beautifully."

While Brown's campaign released a statement criticizing Warren's support for President Barack Obama's failed economic policies, he is unlikely to be able to distract from women's issues for any length of time, especially with the Massachusetts Democratic Party pushing that message on all fronts.

"Scott Brown is desperate to avoid talking about his votes and his party's policies against women," said Mass Dems spokesman Matt House.

The party organized a conference call on Wednesday between reporters and State Senators Katherine Clark and Karen Spilka where the GOP's agenda on women was the main topic of discussion.

Brown Pulls Ahead in Poll

Yet this week's Public Policy Polling results showed Brown with a five-point lead over Warren, 49-44, after the candidates were tied as recently as June.

"That bodes well for Brown now that you're heading into Labor Day if those numbers hold," Walsh said.

Blue Mass Group's Charley Blandy said Brown is mostly safe on the issues of contraception and abortion, but his vote in the Senate against legislation for equal pay for women could work against him.

Brown's campaign manager Jim Barnett said the Senator is capturing support from Democrats, including Worcester's own Konnie Lukes, and his pro-choice stance plays well among moderates and independents.

Tim Buckley, communications director for Mass GOP, said the party's field plans will not change during the final stretch of the campaign season, and he expects an influx of volunteers later in the fall to help bolster door-to-door and phone bank efforts.

It All Comes Down to Jobs

Social issues have dominated the narrative in the Mass Senate race for the last week, but the greatest obstacle for both campaigns, said Walsh, will be winning over the women voters who are most concerned about jobs.

"You've got to find a way to refine your message and work the economic issues into it as well, not just the social issues," he said, noting that in Massachusetts, most women are in the workforce and often in the role of main provider for their families.

"Warren's got that vote when it comes to the social issues," Walsh said.

"What they're both fighting over is that group of women whose position goes beyond those social issues to the economic ones." 


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