Mothers of America are kicking Dole into touch

THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

President Bill Clinton, it seems, has a feeling for women. This is not meant as a snide reference to his reputation as a flirt and even a philanderer. We are talking here about his stunning success in appealing to the female vote.

It is not an unimportant phenomenon. If the President indeed sails into harbour next week, he will owe whatever margin of victory he achieves over Bob Dole above all to women. Dubbed the "gender gap", it is not only providing him with a mighty edge, it may also be of long-term significance for the electoral balance in America between the Democrat and Republican parties.

The evidence in the polling statistics. These suggest that nationwide women favour Clinton over Dole this year by between 22 and 26 per cent, while his advantage among men is closer to 4 per cent. In several battleground states, like Texas, Clinton is trailing Dole amongst males but stands to win because of his high female support. Theories abound about what is corraling women towards Clinton. A favourite revolves around what has emerged as the prevailing epithet of the closing days of the campaign: the so-called "soccer-mom". She is the middle-class, middle-of-the-road mother, who may work but also spends her days cramming her kids into her four-wheel-drive for football matches on Saturday afternoons. She is politically aware, mainstream - and pro-Clinton.

Attend any of the President's rallies in the sunset of this campaign, as I did in Philadelphia on Tuesday, and an array of explanations present themselves. Women in the giant crowd, some who fitted the "soccer-mom" cliche and many who did not, offered various reasons. High among them are his stand on abortion, his championing legislation that allows family members time off work for family events such as childbirth or illness, his environmental polices, their appreciation of Hillary Clinton, and - according to most grannies anyway - his good looks.

Obvious also is the tailoring of Mr Clinton's appearances to women. He is introduced by two local university students, both of them female. Patti Labelle, the singer, is on stage with him. In 20 minutes of speaking, he evokes tax-cuts for child-rearing, schooling and the Internet (including the heavy use by children of the Socks-the-Cat web page), the record number of women-owned businesses and programmes to clean up toxic-wastes dump so that "children will grow up next to a park not next to the waste of America."

Jane Toll, who, as the head an education programme for inner-city kids, might be a super-soccer-mom, offers one analysis. "I think women are more focused on the issues that affect their lives individually and President Clinton addresses those issues. Dole doesn't do that, he is only interested in tax-cuts for the wealthy." In almost every interview, distaste for Dole - either as too old, too disconnected from real life or too much under the influence of the extreme Christian Right - is also expressed.

Paula Hirtle is a graduate student with no soccer-playing children. "Dole is just too old to be able to relate to a 22-year-old on the issues. What he is doing with his life is so different from what I am about right now." Louann Casey, meanwhile, is middle-aged and a lesbian. "Clinton is able to communicate that he understands what we are facing. Dole doesn't come across as being concerned about daily issues that are important to women."

Mike McCurry, Mr Clinton's spokesman, acknowledges there has been a conscious effort in the campaign to pay attention to issues that may be of concern to women.Nita Godmilow, at the rally with her middle-aged daughter, had a more down-to-earth view. "It's because he looks like JFK".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor