The XX Factor

Democrats Actually Have a Pitch To Make to Female Voters Tonight

Michelle Obama rehearses her convention speech.

Photo by STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages

A week ago tonight at the Republican National Convention, the Romney campaign made what will likely be its biggest push to attract female voters, culminating in a speech where Ann Romney appealed to female voters by suggesting that being a conservative means getting to play the female martyr card. While it was a pitch that likely warmed the hearts of true believers, odds are that the Democrats will do a much better job this week of reaching out to women who are undecided or unsure if they intend to vote at all. Even though the first night will be capped, as the RNC’s was, by a speech by the candidate’s wife, tonight’s roster suggests that there will be plenty of talk about policies designed to make women’s lives better, not just “I love women” lip service.

Before Michelle Obama mounts the stage to share the shocking news that she likes her husband and believes you should, too, Nancy Keenan of NARAL and Lilly Ledbetter will be on hand to speak about reproductive rights and pay equity. Kathleen Sebelius will almost surely remind voters that while health care reform helps all Americans, women especially will benefit. The face of the labor movement on stage tonight will also be female: Mary Kay Henry of SEIU. Though the Republicans made the female-heavy profession of schoolteachers their major villain when bashing labor during the RNC, the image of unions is still quite masculine. Henry may be on hand to try to change that.

Getting the women’s vote is key to the Democratic campaign strategy for one very important reason: Women vote more than men, and have done so every election since 1980. In swing states, having women strongly prefer one candidate over another can mean winning the election. Particularly with young female voters, who overwhelmingly prefer Obama, the difference is critical. In 2008, 55 percent of women ages 18-22 turned out to vote, and getting them to turn out again will help seal the deal for Obama’s re-election. The mission of the Democrats this week isn’t so much to persuade female voters to come over to their camp—they  have the majority of the female vote sewn up—but instead to convince young women and single women to turn out in the same numbers that they did in 2008. By fore-fronting so many strong feminist voices, they have a good chance of accomplishing that goal.