President Obama Tries to Gain Women's Votes for Democrats

Fiorina says economic report on women is "all about election-year politics."

October 20, 2010, 7:00 PM

SEATTLE, Oct. 21, 2010 — -- In the pumpkin-festooned backyard of the Foss family today, President Obama pushed the argument that his administration and Democrats generally are better for women and the economy.

"Women have made such enormous strides that they now constitute half of the workforce," he said, clearly mindful that Democrats need to improve their standing with women voters in the pending midterm elections.

Women voters normally vote in greater numbers for Democrats, but the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll shows women divided almost evenly in the generic ballot, with 47 percent favoring the Democrat, 44 percent for the Republican. Four years ago, women favored Democrats by 12 percentage points in the midterm elections.

After the event in the Foss family backyard, a reporter asked the president if he can help with these women voters.

"Absolutely," he said.

Earlier today, White House economists issued a report on "Jobs and Economic Security for America's women" -- pushing equal pay initiatives, child care tax credits, and more general ways they said that the president's policies have helped women.

Coming the same day the president makes a campaign swing to help two embattled Democratic women senators with their job security, the timing of the report raised the eyebrows of Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard and Republican challenger to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

"I have no doubt that this is all about election year politics," Fiorina told ABC News of the National Economic Council report. "And I have no doubt that people are pulling out all the stops to save Barbara Boxer's seat."

The president will rally for Boxer Friday in Los Angeles.

Today was all about Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who won as the so-called "mother in tennis shoes" in the year of the woman, 1992.

"She was the mom in tennis shoes who was just looking to help a few people and solve a few problems," the president recalled today at the University of Washington. "A few years later, that's exactly what she's done. ... And now she needs our help so she can keep on fighting for you in the United States Senate."

Women insurgents in 1992 sold themselves as responsible with budgets, full of common sense and not part of the old boy's network.

But Murray is now the 4th ranking Senate Democratic leader and one of the top givers of earmarks to projects in her state. Earlier this year the Seattle Times noted that according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Murray has collected more money from lobbyists and lobbying firms than any other member of the Senate Democratic leadership with the exception of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid., D-Nev.

"It's clear that she's been swallowed up by the D.C. establishment," Republican Dino Rossi told ABC News in an interview. "She seems to be more interested in pleasing folks that are back there [in Washington, D.C.] ... You know, my contributor base is real people. And I'd rather have real people."

Rossi has aggressively being trying to out-parent the "mom in tennis shoes," saying that Murray's positions are bad for the next generation.

"She takes vote after vote after vote that are not only killing jobs in the state of Washington, but it's amassing a huge debt," he said. "She's number nine in earmarks. We have such a mounting debt. ... When my own 16-year-old comes to me, he comes to me and asks, 'Well how much do I owe? Sixteen-year-olds shouldn't be asking their parents questions like this. They should be asking for the car keys and $20. But he actually understands this.

"If my 16-year-old can understand this," Rossi asked, "why can't Sen. Murray and her friends in D.C. understand that we can't keep spending money we don't have?"

In an interview with ABC News, Murray insisted she's the "same mom in tennis shoes and I keep fighting for moms and dads like me all over my state."

Murray said she's been fighting for jobs and for funding for Washington projects, and that her clout matters.

But she has been dogged by questions regarding whether the former insurgent is now part of the problem. A Seattle Times report indicated that she's delivered nearly $20 million in earmarks for companies that have hired her former aides to lobby for their projects.

"You know, it doesn't matter who represents somebody in asking me for something," Murray told ABC News. "What matters to me is that families in my community here, community leaders, what they ask me for and what is important to them to create jobs to make a better way of life."

Rossi said, "I honestly think she went to Washington, D.C., with good intentions. She said her job wasn't to bring home the bacon, her job was to cut the budget. Now that 17 of her former staffers have become lobbyists, she's made over $20 million in requests for earmarks for those former staffers and now those former staffers have contributed over $80,000 to her campaign. I think that's precisely what's wrong with Washington, D.C."

Murray insisted that she has been independent where she needed to be.

"When President Obama proposed a health care policy that would have impacted veterans, I stood up right away and said, 'not on my watch.' And we got that changed right away," she said. "When it comes to important investments here in my state, whether it's the transportation infrastructure like the ferry system, when the Obama administration got it wrong I picked up the phone and changed it and got it fixed."

ABC News's Mary Bruce, Sherisse Pham and Polson Kannath contributed to this report.

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