Awkward Kerry, Hopeless Bush

The candidates' pitiful pitch for single women

It's not far-fetched for Democrats to count on votes from women like Linderman, who would probably vote for a sock puppet if it meant getting Bush out of office. Kerry can bank on their votes, even as he courts "security moms" and others in swing states who might otherwise vote Republican. That means he can take moderate positions, like his "maybe we even need more troops" stance on the war. But the maneuvering could lose him ground with a not insignificant chunk of voters bent on peace.

For instance, you might assume Code Pink, a grassroots group with some 100 chapters nationwide, would naturally fall in step behind the Democrat. Code Pink has been loud and clear about its opposition to the president, targeting Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice with "pink slip" campaigns—which generally involve waving symbolic pink lingerie and demanding that the person in question get the hell out of office. But because Kerry hasn't been clear about an exit plan from Iraq, the group has stopped short of supporting him.

"We're just too concerned about his position on the war," says Code Pink organizer Gael Murphy. She says the group is working on a petition asking Kerry to set a date for withdrawing the troops, a rare instance of dangling the votes before the candidate and demanding a little something in exchange.

The wooing, on all sides, is just beginning. The Democratic Party is now training hundreds of nurses and other community leaders to have "woman-to-woman" communications about the election. Doro Bush Koch, the president's sister, and Elizabeth Cheney, the VP's daughter, have just launched a series of programs targeting both single and suburban women that stress national security. And moveon.org, the Committee to Redefeat the President, and Planned Parenthood, are among a dozen or so groups hard at work to get single women to both register and vote.

If they succeed in winning her political attention, the single woman could ultimately change the course of the country, says Donna Brazile, a single woman herself who managed Gore's presidential campaign in 2000 and is now chair of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute. For now, though, activists' sights are set smaller: getting women like Laura Schalchli to go out and vote on November 2. Will Schalchli do it? "It's unlikely," she says, "but I hope so."


Sharon Lerner is a senior fellow at the Center for New York City Affairs at Milano Graduate School, New School University.

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