Shatara Reed of Columbia says she is on a “girl-power kick” and ready to elect Hillary Clinton as president, making history again.
“If (Barack) Obama could do it, then why not Hillary?” said the Hopkins 28-year-old, who was taking a break in downtown Columbia on Saturday from training to be a nail salon technician.
A chance to elect the nation’s first female commander in chief could motivate women nationwide to vote for Democrat Clinton, pushing the former first lady, secretary of state and U.S. senator to a historic win, some political observers and Columbia-area women say.
Still, Clinton – who makes her second visit to South Carolina on Wednesday since declaring her candidacy – should not count on S.C. women voting for her just because she is a woman.
S.C. Democrats, including women, like Clinton, polls show; but overall, S.C. women – Republicans and Democrats – are split almost evenly on whether they like the Democrat.
Nationally, women tend to vote more Democratic than Republican, but women do not vote almost exclusively Democratic, as African Americans tend to do, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Married women with children tend to vote more conservatively than when they are single and younger, said Alissa Warters, a Francis Marion University political scientist.
In South Carolina, differences over politics among women are more pronounced, she added.
“We’re in the buckle of the Bible Belt. It’s not just gender (that concerns voters),” she said. “It’s gender plus: ‘What’s their religion? What’s their economic status?”
“You’re not going to see a block (of women voting together for a woman candidate), and you’re probably not going to see a massive uptick in turnout because Hillary Clinton is on the ballot.”
Lost ground with minorities
Clinton will be in North Charleston on Wednesday, discussing youth job training and apprenticeship programs at a technical college as part of her pitch to young, middle- and working-class voters.
The stop follows Clinton’s first S.C. campaign stop last month, when she rolled out her women’s agenda – pushing for equal pay and higher wages – while speaking to a Democratic women’s convention in Columbia.
Among S.C. Democratic voters, Clinton had a commanding 59 percent lead over other Democratic presidential hopefuls in a February Public Policy Polling survey. Sixty-one percent of S.C. Democratic women said they favored Clinton.
When both Republican and Democratic women were surveyed, 47 percent said they liked Clinton, and 48 percent said they disapproved. That was within the poll’s margin of error, meaning Clinton could compete with the GOP nominee for women voters in heavily Republican South Carolina.
That approval rating among S.C. women was higher than their views of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and several GOP presidential candidates, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca; however, many women said they were unsure how they felt about several Republicans in the poll.
Leann Kimbrell and Heather Phillip of Columbia said some women will be attracted to Clinton’s historic candidacy and support her because she is a woman, but the couple are not among them.
Kimbrell, a dental assistant, and Phillip, who works in insurance, said they are undecided as to which candidate or party will get their votes.
Where a candidate stands on issues affecting the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community is important to Kimbrell, but not so much to Phillip, who said she considers economic and national security issues when picking candidates and has voted for Democrats and Republicans.
Sheri Baldwin and Jeanette Spence, Columbia-area nurses who like Clinton, said they pick their candidates for reasons other than gender.
“I’m not swayed by the fact that she’s a woman,” Spence said. “I’m really more interested in what the candidate has to say.”
No ‘massive uptick’
According to a March Gallup poll, women nationwide favored Clinton 56 percent to 32 percent.
By comparison, 44 percent of men approved of Clinton compared to 45 percent who disapproved.
A Suffolk University poll released Tuesday showed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont gaining on Clinton among Democratic voters in early-state New Hampshire.
Among women, however, Clinton still held an almost 20-percentage point lead.
Clinton will win the women’s vote, Sabato predicted.
Her challenge, he added, will be to boost her margins of support among women voters by a few points “to make up ground that (Democrats are) going to lose with minorities,” especially if the GOP nominates a candidate with appeal to Hispanic voters.
“She’s going to get about the same percentage among African Americans (voters as Obama did), but she will not get the same (historic) turnout,” he said.
With the S.C. Democratic primary still eight months away and the general election more than a year off, Pam Perry of Columbia said it is too early in the campaign to decide on a candidate.
Republican Perry is certain she will not vote for Clinton. She also said she would not pick a GOP candidate simply because she is a woman.
Clinton in South Carolina
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton returns to South Carolina on Wednesday for the second time since announcing her run for president. Her stops will include:
Orangeburg: A private meeting with community leaders to discuss challenges facing rural South Carolina.
North Charleston: Clinton is hosting a forum at 3 p.m. at Trident Technical College to discuss youth job training and apprenticeship programs.