Obama Hits at McCain's Appeal to Women

'He's Been on the Wrong Side' of Women's Issues, Obama Tells ABC News


June 16, 2008 —

Sen. Barack Obama hit back at Sen. John McCain's recent attempts to court women voters who flocked to Sen. Hillary Clinton's failed presidential bid in droves.

. "On almost every single issue that's important to women, he's been on the wrong side," the presumptive Democratic nominee told ABC News in an interview in Flint, Mich. Monday.

"You know, he is in favor of judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade. He has opposed equal pay. He has opposed the CHIP [Children's Health Insurance] program, that would make children insured," Obama said.

Watch part of Jake Tapper's interview with Sen. Barack Obama tonight on ABC World News at 6:30pmET

Over the weekend McCain pledged to increase the numbers of women in government if he is elected president.

"I assure you, with confidence, at the end of my first term you will see a dramatic increase of women in every part of the government, in my administration," McCain said Saturday. "I look you in the eye and I promise."

Women voters, who are estimated to represent about 54 percent of the electorate in November, have emerged as a key demographic. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., won them in 2004 by 3 percentage points and former vice president Al Gore won them in 2000 by 11 percentage points.

McCain has turned on the charm in a bid to win over women disgruntled by Clinton's defeat, despite polls showing Obama is winning over women.

Obama is leading McCain by 13 percentage points among female voters according to a Gallup poll released last week.

Answering questions at a "virtual town hall" meeting, which his campaign promoted as an opportunity McCain aimed at former Clinton supporters, McCain's opening remarks at the event included a long section of praise for the New York senator.

"Every place that I go, I'm told that Sen. Clinton inspired millions of young women in this country," McCain said. "And not necessarily young women — inspired a whole generation of young Americans in this country."

In an interview Monday, Obama highlighted McCain's voting record on issues that predominantly affect women.

"He has opposed efforts to protect women against some of the discrimination that they experience in the workplace," Obama said. "You know, that's not going to be a track record that I think is going to be very appealing to women."

Obama, McCain Locked in Tight Battle

The latest public opinion polls show Obama locked in a tight race with McCain — despite a year where the GOP is thought to be at a disadvantage.

The economic recession and fatigue with the Iraq war has tanked President Bush's approval ratings to 31 percent. Some 82 percent of Americans say the country's seriously off on the wrong track, according to the latest ABC News poll.

Obama said the tight race can be blamed on a variety of factors, including his long Democratic primary battle against Clinton, D-N.Y., and a recent history of close presidential contests.

"Senator Clinton was a formidable and terrific candidate," he said, "and so while we were doing that, John McCain basically was getting a pass."

Gore to Endorse Obama Tonight

He said he's confident he'll win the White House in November.

"When people get to know my track record and contrast it with John McCain's, when they know that I'm giving a middle-class tax cut to working families, and he's giving a tax cut, a quarter of which goes to people making more than $2.8 million, when people see that I'm offering universal health care, and John McCain is not, those are going to be decisive issues during a year when families, like those here in Flint, are really feeling left behind," Obama said.

The presumptive Democratic nominee campaigned in Flint today, and will be joined for the first time by Gore at a campaign event in Detroit tonight.

"A few hours from now I will step on stage in Detroit, Michigan to announce my support for Senator Barack Obama," Mr. Gore said in an e-mail sent to his supporters Monday. "From now through Election Day, I intend to do whatever I can to make sure he is elected President of the United States."

Obama Advocates Civil Unions for Gays

Asked whether he is bothered by the gay marriage ceremonies performed across California today, Obama, who personally opposes same-sex marriage, said "No."

The presumptive Democratic nominee said he stands by his pledge to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act — the 1996 law passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton that stipulates states don't have to recognize other states' marriages if not between a man and a woman.

"I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, but I also think that same-sex partners should be able to visit each other in hospitals, they should be able to transfer property, they should be able to get the same federal rights and benefits that are conferred onto married couples." Obama told ABC News.

Obama said he strongly supports civil unions.

"I still think that these are decisions that need to be made at a state and local level," he said. "As president, my job is to make sure that the federal government is not discriminating and that we maintain the federal government's historic role in not meddling with what states are doing when it comes to marriage law. That's what I'll do as president."

Obama: Bush Policies Boosted Terrorism Recruitment

Obama blasted the Bush administration for its handling of Guantanamo and said they have given "a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, 'Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims.'"

The Illinois senator, a former constitutional law professor, said while he hasn't opposed the national security surveillance program in theory, the Bush administration has "been willing to skirt basic protections that are in our Constitution, that our founders put in place."

"It is my firm belief that we can track terrorists, we can crack down on threats against the United States, but we can do so within the constraints of our Constitution. And there has been no evidence on their part that we can't."

Pointing to Guantanamo Bay, Obama said the fact that so few of the people being held by the U.S. have had a trial has destroyed U.S. credibility around the world when it comes to rule of law.

"We could have done the exact same thing, but done it in a way that was consistent with our laws," he said, pointing to the incarceration of people involved with the first bombing of the World Trade Center.

"What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks — for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated," Obama said. "And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world."

Obama Opposes McCain School Voucher Plan

And on the same day that he was extolling the need to shake up the "status quo" in education, Obama also defended his opposition to school vouchers.

"We don't have enough slots for every child to go into a parochial school or a private school. And what you would see is a huge drain of resources out of the public schools," Obama said.

McCain advocates giving every parent a voucher to essentially choose which school they'd like to send their child. Obama, whose two daughters attend private school, said that idea would crush the public school system entirely.

"But what I don't want to do is to see a diminished commitment to the public schools to the point where all we have are the hardest-to-teach kids with the least involved parents with the most disabilities in the public schools," he said. "That's going to make things worse, and we're going to lose the commitment to public schools that I think have been so important to building this country."

Read the full interview transcript HERE. With contributions by ABC News' Bret Hovell and Jennifer Parker.