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Los Angeles Times Interview : Anita Perez Ferguson : On Bringing Women-- and the Personal--into Public Office

July 14, 1996|Kay Mills | Kay Mills is author of "From Pocahontas to Power Suits: Everything You Need to Know About Women's History in America" (Plume, 1995). She interviewed Anita Perez Ferguson in her Washington office

Q: In the presidential race, do you think President Clinton is counting on the gender gap too much? What does Robert Dole need to do from your perspective to close that gap?

A: The Clinton campaign is paying a lot of attention to the women's vote. The Clinton Administration has made extra efforts not only to work on the appointment of more women to policy-making positions but also at higher levels. They've also given a lot of attention to the White House office of public liaison, which has a special women's section that monitors issues for women. And the reelection campaign, a separate effort, is also working closely with women voters and women's issues. So they don't seem to be taking anything for granted--even though they have a considerable lead at this time. It is an earned lead, I believe, because of all the attention they've given.

The Republicans are now making specific efforts of their own. They have a lot of catch-up to do. Certain parts of the Republican Party are very aware that this could make a significant difference for them--to attract more women voters and supporters. We'll see Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison [R-Tex.] at the forefront promoting Dole. It remains to be seen how much they will use Liddy Dole herself, who is an excellent spokesperson and who can do a lot to attract more women voters.

Q: How do you think the abortion issue is going to play out in this election?

A: The abortion issue is probably going to be at its height around August--when the conventions are run. It's already a huge issue for the Republicans--from the session that they had in Texas electing their delegates pretty much based on their stand on that issue through to the platform battles that I'm sure will continue in the San Diego convention. The Democrats seem pretty solidified in their pro-choice support and also in not having to rehash that.

The Republicans are likely to use a decision of the president in regard to the so-called partial-birth abortion bill in the campaign. But all of the numbers tell us that the voters' greatest focus, male and female, is the economy and security--and those are going to be the two leading issues up to election day.*

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