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CAMPAIGN 2000

Activists Advise Gore on Attracting Women Voters

May 10, 2000|EDWIN CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — A high-powered delegation of women activists told Vice President Al Gore on Tuesday that he needs to significantly sharpen his message if he is to broaden the support among women that he so desperately needs in this campaign.

In a private strategy session that lasted nearly two hours, they urged Gore to assemble a more far-flung grass-roots organization to help spread the message that he is an ardent champion of women's rights, according to one key participant.

The meeting was sought by the women, who prefer Gore to Texas Gov. George W. Bush, said Kim Gandy, executive vice president of the National Organization for Women.

"The message we delivered was that he needs to distinguish himself from Gov. Bush," Gandy said in an interview.

"There is no question in the minds of all these huge women's organizations that a Bush presidency would be a disaster for women, and our message was that the distinctions [between Gore and Bush] were not being distinctly drawn. We said: 'Let us help you reach the women of this country,' " Gandy said.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday May 19, 2000 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
No endorsement--A May 10 article may have left the misimpression that the American Assn. of University Women favors Vice President Al Gore over Texas Gov. George W. Bush for president. In fact, the 150,000-member organization does not endorse candidates in partisan elections.

Among the organizations represented Tuesday were the National Council of Jewish Women, the Feminist Majority, the American Assn. of University Women and NOW. In addition to the vice president and his top strategists--including campaign manager Donna Brazile--Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala also attended the session. It was held in the vice president's office in the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.

The women were responding to recent polls that show Gore has lost the edge among women voters that helped fuel President Clinton's victories in 1992 and 1996.

A Los Angeles Times Poll completed this week found Bush is winning the support of married women and is running almost even with the vice president among all women voters. The poll also found Bush is dominating the support of men voters, giving him an overall lead in the presidential race of 8 percentage points.

Gandy made clear that the women's organizations have no quibble with Gore's positions on their issues.

"We requested the meeting because we wanted to talk about gender issues, because we are concerned that women are not supporting the Gore campaign or his candidacy in the numbers that would reflect the very different positions of the Gore and the Bush campaigns," she said.

"We told him what he needed to hear. And I think our messages were received," Gandy added. "The vice president shared some of his ideas, listened to ours and offered to have an ongoing dialogue."

As an important first step, many of the participants said that Gore needs to create a grass-roots organization to spread his message because, in Gandy's words, "the media is an insufficient way to get out this message of distinction."

On the campaign trail, Gore regularly touts his support for women's issues such as pay equity, combating violence, abortion rights, health care, education and child care. But his remarks are rarely reported by the news media.

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