This election, abortion rights activists are looking for just a few good women

September 19, 2012

This fall, there is going to be a relatively small group of women voters who may be very, very sick of hearing from NARAL Pro-Choice America by Election Day on Nov. 6.

Like most of those involved in politics this election year, the abortion rights advocacy group says that women will determine the outcome of the contest on Nov. 6 between Democratic President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

But unlike most, the group has identified, by name and address, the thousands of women across the country that it thinks might make the difference – and it plans to go after their votes,  and in a big way, but in small numbers – in many cases as few as 1,000 or 2,000 in an individual county.

Using micro-targeting tools, NARAL narrowed this pool to a select group of 338,020 women, living not just in nine battleground states, but in 25 specific counties within those states. In Ohio, for example, it has identified 43,067 women in Cuyahoga County, 43,616 in Franklin County and 20,432 in Hamilton County. In Wisconsin, it is looking at 15,855 in Milwaukee County, 1,993 in Racine County and just 993 in Kenosha County.

The group has identified those women as “pro-choice Obama defectors,” or women who voted for the Democrat in 2008 and support abortion rights, but who now might be wavering or planning to stay home on Election Day.

“These are the voters who in large part are not solidly with the president,” said Nancy Keenan, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, often because they are concerned about the stumbling U.S. economy. But Naral thinks the women can been brought back into Obama’s fold if they are reminded about his support for abortion rights, which Romney staunchly opposes.

Echoing the findings of political scientists, Naral said its research shows that many women who favor abortion rights will change their vote to support a pro-choice candidate, even if the U.S. economy is the issue that most concerns them this election year. And to convince them to do so, it plans to send 1.2 million pieces of mail, use volunteers to make telephone calls, use social media advertising and and buy commercial spots on cable television, targeting its spots to the specific voters in the individual counties.

“Our program is a persuasion program, so our program is to persuade these people,” Naral political director Beth Shipp said.

Naral thinks its program could make a big difference this year, given that the election is expected to be close. Many election experts say that these ‘micro-targeted’ advertising schemes are the future of campaign spending, arguing that there is no sense in spending money, for example, to send a mailing for a candidate who opposes environmental regulations to a family that drives a hybrid car.

The budget? Right now, it’s $2.5 million to $3 million, but that could go up, if donations go up. And they just may.

Obama’s campaign has been working hard to win over women voters, hoping to match the 13 percentage point advantage over Republican John McCain with them that helped propel him to the White House four years ago by contending that Romney will seek to end legal abortions and also cut programs that provide healthcare for women.

Heightened rhetoric on the topic has fueled donations to Naral. For example, the group had a huge fundraising month in August. Some of that was inspired by what might seem an unlikely source — conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. , who called it a “death squad.” Naral said that comment alone inspired $50,000 in donations, which would pay for a lot of mailings of Internet ads.

Picture credit: Nancy Keenan speaks at the Democratic National Convention. REUTERS/Eric Thayer.


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