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EMILY’s List Sees Democratic Gains

Republican support among women has dropped significantly since November, creating an opening for Democratic and female candidates in next year’s midterm elections, according to a new report commissioned by EMILY’s List.

Recent polling conducted by the Democratic firms Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group and the Feldman Group Inc. revealed that women voters are particularly open to Democratic House and Senate candidates but also suggested that the Democratic Party has work to do before it can count on their votes.

“Much of the change at this time is due to Republican error; Democrats have not closed the deal,” pollster Diane Feldman warned during a briefing on the report at EMILY’s List headquarters Wednesday.

On a generic ballot, 43 percent of women polled in May said they would support a Democratic Congressional candidate while 32 percent said they would vote Republican, according to the poll.

Among women who supported President Bush six months ago, just 66 percent said they will definitely support Republican Congressional candidates next year while one-third said they will either vote Democratic or are undecided, with the bulk of them being undecided.

EMILY’s List President Ellen Malcolm said those attitudes presented Democrats with “tremendous opportunities.”

The poll of 2,007 women and 606 men was conducted May 18-26 and had an overall error margin of 1.9 percent and 2.2 percent among the female subset.

Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Democrats should not read too much into the findings.

“You cannot take national polls about presidential elections and translate them into House races,” Forti said. “House races are about pocketbook issues, and most voters have some form of relationship with their Congressman. Whether they see them in the grocery store or are next-door neighbors, they are part of the district. Until you can compare candidate to candidate, any poll about the direction the House is going to go is flawed.”

Forti also warned against putting too much stock into generic party ballots.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that a majority of people do not approve of the job Congress is doing but when respondents were asked whether they approve of their individual Member, 61 percent answered positively and 32 percent were negative.

“People may hate Congress but they love their Congressman,” Forti said.

Nonetheless, the EMILY’s List report can serve as a blueprint for how Democratic candidates can win House and Senate races, Malcolm said.

“There is a clear message from the women we spoke to: never stand between a woman and her desire to protect and care for her family,” Malcolm said. “Republicans will continue to lose women if they fail to respect that women see themselves — not government or politicians — as the arbiter of family values.

“Democrats must offer an agenda of change and hope framed in a way that recognizes women’s focus on the family and their self-identified role as caregivers,” she added.

The pollsters found that many women who supported Bush last year now feel that Republicans have intruded too much in people’s personal lives, are focusing on the wrong issues and are heading the country in the wrong direction.

A significant bloc of women who oppose abortion rights were not comfortable with Congress’s involvement in the Terri Schiavo case, for example, pollster Geoff Garin said.

He calls these women “anti-intrusion” conservatives and said that they can be persuaded into the Democratic camp.

A lesson Democrats need to take away from the report is that they must incorporate values into their message, Feldman and Garin said.

“Democrats need an agenda that addresses the poignant economic insecurities among women, but that does so with due respect for the centrality of families and care giving in the values system,” the report read.

The current climate is one in which women candidates can succeed, said Karen White, political director for EMILY’s List.

“Women candidates are seeing great opportunities,” she said.

They are coming to EMILY’s List, the largest political action committee in the country, earlier this cycle than in past ones and more women are showing an interest in running, she said.

While it is too early to know the 2006 map, White said EMILY’s List, which promotes Democratic women candidates who support abortion rights, already sees potential for Democratic gains in 20 House districts, two to five Senate races and six gubernatorial contests.

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