McCain courts women voters

July 11, 2008 6:08:18 PM PDT
Republican John McCain told a mostly female audience Friday that his plans to cut income, business and estate taxes would help women while Democrat Barack Obama's proposals would only erect new economic obstacles for them. A day after Obama devoted a day of campaigning to women's issues, McCain did the same.

He told several hundred women in western Wisconsin that his tax cut plans would be particularly helpful to women because so many of them own or work for small businesses.

"Yesterday in New York, Senator Obama went on at great length about how much he cares about women's issues," McCain said at a town-hall forum in Hudson, where women vastly outnumbered men. "I believe him. But when you cut through all the smooth rhetoric, Senator Obama's policies would make it harder for women to start new businesses, harder for women to create or find new jobs, harder for women to manage the family budget, and harder for women and their families to meet their tax burden."

Obama's campaign disputed the claims and noted that McCain opposed a Senate measure to lengthen the time that workers have to file pay discrimination lawsuits, a priority for some women's groups.

McCain told the audience that he has a record of supporting equal pay for women. He later told reporters he opposed the Senate bill because he didn't want "open-ended litigation by trial lawyers." He said he has demonstrated his support for equal pay "in a whole broad variety of ways, from support of women in the military to all kinds of laws that provide employment" to women.

Republicans believe McCain has a chance to pick up Democratic and independent women who are angry or disappointed that Hillary Rodham Clinton lost her bid to become the first female president.

But the Hudson event seemed geared to hard-core conservatives.

A woman drew loud cheers and applause when she told McCain: "The Democratic Party has moved so far to the left they're almost falling off of the planet. Will you hammer away at their socialist, Marxist philosophy?"

When the cheering finally died down, McCain revived it by answering, "Yes."

He eased the tone a bit later, talking of his willingness to anger fellow Republicans in the Senate by working with liberal Democrats such as Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who is "in our prayers" because of his battle with cancer.

The event had a friendly, often lighthearted feel. LouAnne Reger, owner of J&L Steel Erectors, warmed up the crowd by talking of buying clothes, losing weight and getting divorced and remarried (more than once).

Cindy McCain continued the theme in introducing her husband. She said helping run a presidential campaign was a good way to lose 30 pounds, adding that the white slacks she was wearing were two sizes too large.

Some men's bathrooms in the J&L Steel facility were converted to ladies' rooms, forcing male volunteers to stand in line while the women's restrooms were wait-free.

Meanwhile Friday, the political arm of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors endorsed McCain. The group's chairman, Jim Risk, said Obama's policies "are contrary to business interests," mainly in the area of taxation.