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Bush Focuses on Women Voters

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  • Bush Focuses on Women Voters

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. With polls showing his support among female voters has improved, President Bush sought to consolidate those gains Friday, telling a town hall-style gathering of mostly women supporters here that his agenda has made their lives safer and more prosperous.

    He promised to pursue an even more women-friendly agenda in a second term. "Women need help," Bush declared.

    Using one of his favorite formats, Bush shared a stage with four local women who had been screened by his campaign and provided enthusiastic testimonials of how their lives have improved in the past four years or would get better if the president's full agenda were carried out. Each focused on a topic that underscored a basic element in the president's message.

    In the fortnight since the Republican convention, several polls have found that Bush was narrowing or even eliminating the edge that Democrats traditionally have enjoyed over Republicans among women voters in presidential elections.

    Four years ago, exit polls found that Democrat Al Gore won 54 percent of the female vote to Bush's 43 percent.

    This year, a Gallup poll right after the Democratic convention in late July found that likely women voters favored Sen. John F. Kerry over Bush, 51 percent to 46 percent. But after the GOP convention, 49 percent of likely women voters favored Kerry while 48 percent favored Bush.

    A Time magazine poll, conducted two weeks before the Republican convention showed Kerry led Bush by 14 points among women. But the most recent Time poll found that Kerry had fallen below the president among women voters by one point.

    The historic Democratic edge among women is crucial, because Republican presidential candidates, and especially Bush, have enjoyed stronger support from men -- by large margins. During the hour-long "Focus on Women's Issues" event in Charlotte, the president offered no specific initiatives aimed at women. Rather, in delivering a version of his basic stump speech, he stressed his agenda's benefits to women.

    For instance, in arguing that his across-the-board tax cuts are helping small business owners, most of whom pay income taxes at the individual rate. Bush noted that women own 10 million small businesses around the country. He also said that 45 percent of small businesses in North Carolina are owned by women.

    "I think tax policy ought to encourage the formation of women-owned businesses," he said.

    Some analysts have said that in addition to spotlighting pocketbooks issues, the president's tough rhetoric on the war on terrorism may be winning over some female voters.

    During a recent panel discussion sponsored by Lifetime television, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said, "George W. Bush is literally the best Republican we have ever seen at targeting women voters, whether it's for the security message or the joint ads with Laura Bush or the outreach to business owners."

    During his remarks here, Bush defended the war in Iraq, saying millions of women are now free there and in Afghanistan.