Clinton’s importance increases


Many women voters may see the Obama-Biden ticket as more experienced.

MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

The naming of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate has boosted the importance of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s help to his Democratic opponent, campaign operatives say — but not for the reasons you might think.

The McCain campaign says it selected the moose-hunting, anti-abortion “hockey mom” for her maverick qualities, but most observers agree the choice also is aimed at pitching for a slice of disappointed Clinton voters.

“I think Sarah Palin is a really good choice — it just makes it easy to vote for him,” said Toni Alves of San Francisco, a Clinton backer who felt betrayed by the Democratic Party.

But we may see as many campaign events at bowling alleys and beer halls as simulations of “The View” when Clinton goes on the stump to challenge McCain and Palin this fall, Democratic operatives say. Hillary’s bond with her voters actually isn’t primarily a woman thing.

“I would not conclude that these are monolithic voters who would support any woman,” said Jano Cabrera, a former spokesman for the Democratic National Committee.

Campaigning against a woman is a tricky business, Democrats admit, looking back at the epidemic of foot-in-mouth disease that broke out among liberals this week, who among other things questioned Palin’s fitness for office because she has five children.

Clinton has made it clear she’s committed to campaigning for the Obama-Biden ticket, telling reporters in Denver, “I am really at their disposal to do what they believe will help them win.”

But she has been restrained about Palin, saying only that she would take the country in the “wrong direction.”

That issue-oriented tone is in line with findings by pollster Geoff Garin for the Democratic women’s fund-raising group Emily’s List, which suggested McCain’s choice of Palin may have damaged his standing with many women voters, who now view the Obama-Biden ticket as more experienced.

“If you are not in step with women on the issues that are most concerning them ... then simply picking a woman ... does not win them over,” said EMILY’s List executive director Ellen Moran.

Clinton’s stands differ from Palin’s on a string of core issues.

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