Mar 152012

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

The victory in the 2012 Presidential race may very well go to the side that does the best job of organizing and mobilizing its women voters and supporters.

It is expected that 53 percent or more of the voters who will go to the polls in the 2012 Presidential election will be women. In 2008, 56 percent of female voters cast their ballots for Barack Obama. From his point of view, it was a good thing they did — because the majority of male voters cast their ballots for John McCain. In the 2010 Congressional elections, a narrow majority of women rejected the Democrats and cast their ballots for Republican candidates, costing the Democrats their majority in Congress.

In 2012, it is expected that President Obama will once again lose a majority of male voters no matter who the Republicans nominate. For Obama to have a chance at a second term, he has to win a significant majority of women voters. Of course, the Republican Party knows that too, so they’ll be making a similar effort to enroll, motivate and capture the financial support, volunteer efforts and votes of women. So, both parties are now planning how to reach out to women – conservatives, moderates and liberals – because how they vote as a group almost surely will decide who wins the Presidential election and controls Congress.

The Democrats at the national level kicked off a massive drive this week aimed at women. It is being led by First Lady Michelle Obama, whose name is on millions of letters being sent to women identified as Democrats or independents. She remains far more popular than her husband. In her letter, Ms. Obama says, “Will we honor the basic American principle that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper and if one of us is hurting, then all of us are hurting? Will we be a country where opportunity is limited to just a few at the top? Or will we give every child a chance to succeed, no matter where she is from or what she looks like or how much her parents make? Will we be in this together?”

Of course, you can be sure that the Republicans will have a rejoinder to that. In Louisiana, Republican women volunteers are famous for organizing formidable and effective phone banks in the weeks prior to elections, up until Election Day. We remember attending a very early fundraiser for former U.S. Rep. Joseph Cao; it was the region’s Republican women’s groups who came with their checks.

Now, as a practical matter, Louisiana is not a battleground state in Presidential elections. In 2008, Barack Obama got less than 15 percent of the white vote here and never seriously threatened to carry the state. But the millions of dollars raised and contributed by Louisiana Democratic women were part of the campaign kitty that carried Obama to the Presidency, and will be important again in 2012 when the Democrats are planning America’s first billion-dollar Presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, friends of Uptown New Orleans-based state Sen. Karen Carter-Peterson say she would like to take over leadership of the State Democratic Party, currently headed by Buddy Leach, a former legislator who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2003. The Louisiana Democratic Party is widely seen as having been limping along for the last several years. Leach was brought in to fire things up but Sen. Peterson’s possible intent to move up in the ranks is an indication that there is unrest in Democratic circles.

Danae was present when Carter-Peterson first met then-U.S. Sen. Obama, who had come to City Hall to visit several male elected officials. But it was Carter-Peterson who led President Obama’s campaign in Louisiana, and her good work this fall could open the doors to a cabinet position.

On the Republican side, look for Suzanne Haik Terrell to step up for another statewide race during the next cycle. Whether Republicans or Democrats, women are a force to be reckoned with this year.

Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several televsion programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City Councilwoman Stacy Head, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and state Rep. Robert Billiot.

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