Cinderella at the 2004 Election Ball

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Three new items about the upcoming presidential election are revealing.

Zogby, who called the 2000 election accurately, just announced the results of its latest poll: The race has tightened so that it is a “virtual dead heat” and neither candidate currently has enough votes (270) to win the Electoral College and capture the White House. According to Zogby’s estimates, President Bush can now count on 142 votes and Mr. Kerry has a base of 172, with 224 electoral votes up for grabs. Zogby concludes that undecided voters are the key. Recently, Zogby said, the president has made progress concerning “job performance, right direction for the country, and whether or not he deserves to be re-elected.”

At the same time, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) released a survey of its membership. According to the women entrepreneurs constituting NAWBO’s constituency, 55.9 percent support Kerry over 40.1 percent who choose Bush. Only 8 percent of this demographic indicated that they are undecided and 93 percent voted in the 2000 election.

Then comes an e-mail from Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority saying that more women than men will vote in 2004 and that, in the key states, the “gender gap” is the “decisive difference.” Eleanor hoped that politicians would begin to address women and women’s issues; she even quoted Eleanor Roosevelt reminding politicians that “it is up to the women.”

I would remind politicians that married women are the ones who vote and that they constitute the majority of the undecided vote.

Like other voting demographics, married women are concerned about the “direction of the country.” For them, however, in addition to economic and safety issues, the “direction of the country” is a phrase that includes the moral and social values that will determine the world that their children will inhabit.

It especially includes the kind of judges who will be appointed during the next president’s term of office.

The NAWBO survey is ironic because both political parties are targeting professional and businesswomen just like the members of NAWBO; the Democrats are going after the professional women and feminists while the Republicans are trying to get the vote of women business owners. Ironically, by NAWBO’s own admission, the vast majority of the entrepreneurial women who are the subject of the GOP’s courtship have made up their minds already and most reject President Bush; only a few (8 percent) are undecided.

So, the GOP’s efforts to get entrepreneurial women to vote Republican seem a bit futile.

Sadly, neither party seems to understand that married mothers of school-aged children are a major voting block and their vote is up-for-grabs.

Married mothers of school-aged children are the Cinderellas of the 2004 Election; unless a prince comes along with a glass slipper that fits them precisely, they will stay on task and won’t expect to dance at the ball.

Specifically, what is up-for-grabs is whether married mothers of young children will make the effort to get out and vote. They will have to be motivated inspired! to take the trouble to cast a ballot. Some are nonpolitical. Some doubt that politics make a difference in their personal lives. Some don’t want to dirty their hands with the nasty business of politics. All of them are “run ragged”; they have to work hard to find a minute to call their own. They need a reason to find a babysitter and the money to pay her! Or, they have to go to the effort to buckle the children into child restraints, haul them in the SUV to the polls, and keep them corralled long enough to stand in line and enter the booth to vote.

Neither option is easy. These women have to be mighty motivated!

Maybe somebody will come along at the last minute to round them all up and lead them . . . no, that’s the Pied Piper story.

Cinderella is the story about the Prince recognizing her worth and seeking her out. The winning presidential candidate will recognize that the glass slipper fits a surprising Cinderella the nation’s married mothers!

Janice Shaw Crouse, spokesperson for Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, is author of Gaining Ground: A Profile of American Women in the Twentieth Century.

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