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Williams: A fierce fight for women's votes

Most voters in the last four presidential elections have been female, and most of them voted for the Democrat. But in all four races a majority of white women voted for the Republican.

Young white women and white working moms are more likely than their older, married sisters to vote for Democrats. But concern over the economy has them looking for solutions from either party.

In the 2016 presidential race, Republicans plan to convince those white women that the GOP knows how to put money in their pockets. Even more, the GOP wants to stir fear among white women that Democrats don’t have the answers to economic problems — and they want to make this argument especially strongly in the cases of two prominent white females, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

If the Democrats nominate Clinton or Warren the GOP will be busy telling swing voters — lots of white working women — that fixing the growing income divide is more important than putting a woman in the White House.

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Jobs are the number one issue for Americans and especially for middle and working class white women, the so-called “blue collar moms.” The importance of making an economic pitch to white women voters is clear from the recent outbreak of arguments among Democrat over economic policy.

In the last month, Warren, interviewed on a book tour, criticized the Obama White House for handling the 2008 recession with little regard for women in middle class families and young people. She said the Obama economic team “chose Wall Street instead of American families who were in trouble.”

Tim Geithner, the former Treasury Secretary who was at the heart of that Obama team, is firing back. During a tour for his own book, he told an interviewer that Warren used financial oversight hearings to produce “made for You-Tube inquisitions,” to please the populist crowd baying for blood from Wall Street executives. But he said Warren had few “serious inquiries,” about how to get the economy back on steady ground to produce jobs for anyone — including working women — being left behind by the recession and squeezed by rising income inequality.

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton is defending the impact his White House economic policies had on blue-collar moms against criticism from Vice President Biden.

Biden, whose path to the Democratic nomination is being blocked by a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy, irritated the Clintons by telling a group of Democrats at a private fundraiser that the problem of gross income inequality dogging American families began with Clinton-era policies. That includes trade deals that allowed jobs to be out-sourced, weakening regulations on high-risk deals for wealthy banks and reforms that cut welfare support in the “later years of the Clinton administration.”

Hillary Clinton’s lack of experience in handling economic issues is being highlighted by populist support for Warren and her long history of championing women and families hurt by income inequality.

A recent New York Times story noted that Hillary Clinton “has come under criticism from some left-leaning Democrats who view her as too cozy with Wall Street.” She is a former Wal-Mart board member; in April, several left-wing scholars along with consumer advocate Ralph Nader asked her to join calls for Wal-Mart to increase pay for its mostly female employees.

President Clinton’s policies are one clue to his wife’s ideas on the economy. In response to Biden, he defended his policies as more pro-growth than pro-Wall Street by pointing to 22 million new jobs and a balanced budget during his time in the White House. Amy Chozick of The New York Times described the speech as a “strategic effort by Mr. Clinton and his advisers to reclaim the populist ground now occupied by Senator Elizabeth Warren…and other ascendant left-leaning Democrats and potentially to lay out an economic message that could propel his wife…to the White House in 2016.”

Hillary Clinton joined the fight in a recent speech. She said her husband also raised the minimum wage, doubled the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor and advanced better health care for children. She praised his use of “smart policies and sound investments” to produce “broad-based growth and shared prosperity.”

She said the real villain behind middle class income blues is President George W. Bush for lowering taxes, starting “two wars without paying for them,” neglecting “oversight of the financial sector.” and failing to put money into blue-collar infrastructure projects that could have produced jobs for American families.

In 2012, white women voted for Republican Mitt Romney over Democrat Barack Obama by 14 percentage points, 56-42. But President Obama won women voters by 11 points, 55-44.

That is why the “Gender Gap” problem for Republicans is really a racial gap. Republicans win older, married white women. Democrats win black, Latino and Asian women. Younger, single white women who currently lean to the Democrats are still viewed by the Republicans as up for grabs.

An early May Pew poll showed white women favoring Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections by 51 percent to 39 percent while women of all races favored Democrats 47-43.

So, how will white women vote in 2016 if a woman, Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren, is the Democrat’s nominee?  The answer to that question is key to Democrats’ chances of keeping the White House in 2016.