Signs of trouble for Obama with working moms
It is anecdotal, but the polls seem to validate the writers speculation. Michigan has been run into a ditch by Democrat energy policies and by a Democrat governor and legislature trying to tax their way out of a one state recession. There are plenty of reasons to vote against Democrats in Michigan and Palin is just one more for some.
Jessica Goral had pretty much made up her mind two weeks ago: she was going to vote for Barack Obama. Then John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running-mate.
“She empowers a lot of women,” said Mrs Goral, a mother of two in Macomb County – a national bellwether in the battleground state of Michigan and an area rich in white, working-class swing voters who will play an important role in deciding the election in November.
“I like that she’s a brand new mother, and that she has the courage to stand behind her pregnant daughter. She relates to working women. For all of us who have children at home but have to go to work every day – she has given us a sense that we can still do it and can be an excellent mum,” she said. “Sarah Palin is a role model. She’s made me more likely to vote Republican.”
If Mr Obama should be in any doubt how gravely the vice-presidential nomination of the Governor of Alaska has imperilled his White House ambitions, then a day spent in Macomb County will make this clear: white women who voted for John Kerry in 2004 are suddenly deserting the Democratic Party.
This is Mount Clemens, in the heart of Macomb County, where the pollster Stan Greenberg first identified the phenomenon of the Reagan Democrats – the working-class, socially conservative, traditionally Democratic whites who deserted the party for Ronald Reagan in 1980. It is fair to say that this critical swing group now has a new name: Palin Democrats.
The Times spoke to dozens of women here – perhaps the key demographic in this election – in an area that is 88 per cent white, has one of the highest unemployment and home repossession rates in the country, and will play a big role in determining who wins Michigan in November. It is a crucial swing state that no Republican has won since 1988 but where Mr Obama is particularly vulnerable. Nearly all said that they were still undecided. Yet the disturbing fact for Mr Obama was how many said that they had been leaning towards him – until Mrs Palin entered the race. It lends new credence to a poll last week that showed white women fleeing from Mr Obama to Mr McCain.
Katherine Herman, 45, is a lifelong Democrat who has never voted for a Republican. Until now. “I have a friend who’s a Democrat, and like me, it’s Sarah Palin that’s caused her to lean in favour of McCain. Palin is tenacious. She’s sure of herself and would make good decisions for all Americans,” she said.
Stephanie Parker, 23, a single mother puffing on a Marlboro menthol cigarette in Main Street, Mount Clemens, voted for Mr Kerry and had been drawn to Mr Obama. “Palin’s made a big difference. I think she’ll do us great. What she stands for is fantastic,” she said. What does she stand for? “I couldn’t tell really. But I love her.”
Jennifer Zvara, 22, another single mother who voted for John Kerry, said: “I’m undecided but leaning more towards McCain because of Palin. It’s a women thing. She’s one of us. This race is about the running-mates – it’s not about Obama any more.”