Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 30, 2014

Candidates seek female votes key to Senate control

(Continued)

It's an anchor of Democrats' effort to protect incumbents Hagan, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana and Mark Udall in Colorado and to winning in Georgia and Kentucky — Democrats' only realistic chances to pick up GOP-held seats.

Republicans bristle at the implication that their agenda hurts women. GOP candidates and strategists predict that November results will be determined by the nation's economy and overall direction, with voter discontent toward Obama and his signature health care overhaul trumping whatever Democrats highlight.

Recent history — including Landrieu's and Hagan's 2008 victories — demonstrates why women are an electoral commodity.

In 2008, Landrieu outperformed Obama, winning 57 percent of women while Obama captured just 42 percent of women voters in Louisiana. Hagan's 55 percent matched Obama's support among women in North Carolina. Both fared worse among men, with Hagan garnering just 47 percent of their votes.

Two years later, Democrats' gender gap persisted across three Senate contests featuring male candidates. Women backed victorious Democrats by double digits in both West Virginia and in Colorado. Women split evenly in Kentucky, even as Republican Rand Paul carried men by 21 percentage points.

Of course, maximizing the gender gap in 2014 still could be tricky when an older, whiter electorate — the usual in midterms — makes it harder for Democrats to motivate their core supporters without alienating conservative-leaning independents. Republican confidence is bolstered since many competitive races occur in states where Obama lost in 2012 and where he remains unpopular.

"In states where Democrats don't win that often, this is not the year they're going to reverse the trend," said Republican pollster Glen Bolger, who works for North Carolina's GOP Senate front-runner, Thom Tillis. "It's hard to overcome the fundamentals with tactics, no matter how good a campaign you run."

Anzalone conceded as much, but said the Democratic strategy isn't about winning on single, hot-button issues "isolated to women." Instead, he said, it's about a range of issues that combine to "help take Republicans off their narrative."

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