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June 5th, 2008
06:56 PM ET

Obama can reach Hillary's loyalists

Lisa Witter
Author and COO, Fenton Communications

The news cycle is buzzing with questions about how Obama can woo many of the 18 million Senator Clinton voters who had their hearts broken on Tuesday. It’s important to know that they weren’t just upset for Hillary, they were upset for themselves. Many saw Senator Clinton’s fight as their fight. Many people saw her tenacity and wished they would have had it when they lost a promotion or job because of their gender. Many saw her outcome as theirs. This loss runs deep.

On Saturday, when Senator Clinton suspends her campaign, we need to listen closely to what she says and how she says it. I’m confident that if Senator Clinton fully and sincerely endorses Senator Obama with her heart and her head he’ll not only be able to capture back many of these disillusioned women, but they will become evangelicals for him.

However, he’ll need to take note of some of the truths about women’s lives and the values women hold dearest. Here’s how:

Women value community and connection.

So, Obama needs to:

  • Activate Obama’s women supporters to reach out to Clinton supporters and have open and respectful one-on-one conversations about why Obama will be good for America's women. (When you connect women to each other you strengthen your “brand”).
  • Opt for campaign events at small scale venues, instead of large stadiums, to connect more intimately. (For example: town halls, union halls, community centers, etc.)
  • Talk more about his mother and the role she had in his life. He was raised by a strong, single mother who had an enormous impact on his life. Women want to see him as a real person, not just a politician. Talking more about his mother will go a long way.
  • Frame his policies and principles as from the perspective of a husband and a parent of two small girls. Women respect a family man.

Women like to feel part of a movement –they draw on their movement allegiances and want to see women in leadership positions.

So, Obama needs to:

  • Get high profile Clinton supporters to endorse Obama very publicly as soon as possible – Gloria Steinem, Geraldine Ferraro, Madeline Albright, etc.
  • Give a seminal speech on gender much like the one he did on race. Ellen Goodman suggested this and wrote a beautiful version last weekend.
  • Have a private meeting with Clinton and leaders of the women's movement to talk about how women will be prominent in his campaign.
  • Commit to 1/2 of his cabinet being women. Why not have his advisors reflect the gender make-up of the country? This would show Hillary supporters that he understands the importance of women’s leadership in his inner-circle.

Women have a strong predilection for empathy.

So, Obama needs to:

  • Continue to communicate the need for change and do it with optimism. If he starts attacking McCain it could really turn off women voters. He needs to communicate his refrain on hope.
    Always be gracious to Senator Clinton. He must never ever do or say anything disrespectful of her.

Obama’s having trouble reaching women over 35, and 80% of women over 40 have children.

So, Obama needs to:

  • Communicate that he understands that women are often the main caregivers in the family and that they are struggling to work, be mothers and often take care of their parents. He needs to communicate that he understands that this economy is tight for American working families and that women, as 83% of consumers, are forced to make the tough purchasing decisions: gas or food; which soap works best watered down; what medication cant they do without, etc.
  • Go on a women/mother’s listening tour.
  • Continue to use the Web as an organizing tool for women. More women are online and blog than men are so his internet outreach is key. Women are also twice as likely to pass on information – he can continue to use the web to help raise money and spread the word. Women are key to his viral success.
  • Make being involved in his campaign easy.
  • Update his Web site to be reflective of women. He should have prominent women endorsements, photos of women and of real people.

I hope that the Obama campaign wakes up every day thinking about the women’s vote. Women have turned out in higher numbers than men in every Presidential election since 1960. They are the key to this election.

Editor's note: Lisa Witter is co-author of  The She Spot: Why Women are the Market for Changing the World and How to Reach Them, and Chief Operating Officer of Fenton Communications which represents various public advocacy organizations.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
soundoff (173 Responses)
  1. trasa

    I'm not going to sit here and try to convince anyone to go with Obama, in the end, it's your choice no matter what. To those that do plan to come over to Obama side, we're glad to have you. To those that just simply can't do it for whatever reason, that's fine. Just hope they are good reasons and not unjust. Hillary fought hard and hate that it didn't work for her, but that's life. I just want to say to the Clinton supporters that people have a right to dislike Hillary just like you guys have a right to dislike Obama. All this nonsense about if Obama supporters were nicer, the point is you don't like him and that's fine. We all could be respectful and it wouldn't change your mind. Mostly some are saying he's not strong and unexperienced and if that turns you off, I don't see how being nice to you guys is going to change your minds. I truly don't feel he should choose Hillary because I do feel he needs to earn your guys vote, however if he does, I'm still voting in his favor. Hillary had a great campaign, but could have been phenominal if she would have used her resources better. Those that say wait til 2012, but don't forget that if your being vindictive about not supporting Obama and going with McCain, people don't forget and will blame Hillary and when it comes time for her to run when she chooses, people just might do the same thing you guys did and instead of having 4 years, we have another 8. You guys are betting a lot on something that we all don't have no clue about the future. If we continue staying divided, you better believe that it won't be 4 years, it will be longer. And don't forget it takes time for policies to go in effect, which means, the longer we waste in petty bull crap, the people that suffer the most is us.

    June 9, 2008 at 4:07 am |
  2. jim

    I don't think many of Hillary supporters will vote for Obama. His comment about his grandmoh er "typical White person" will put the last nail in the coffin for him. Just remember, Anderson, if John Mc Cain said "typical black person", he would be front page news at CNN and probably be sued by the ACLU!!!!!

    June 9, 2008 at 12:09 am |
  3. Deb

    If you look at the election results you can see that Hillary Clinton won all the populous states except Illinois-Senator Obama’s home state. He won a bunch of states that historically never vote Democratic in the general election. In addition, Hillary won core constituent groups including: women, senior citizens and working class Americans. Furthermore, she won the popular vote. (Just add up all the votes from the primaries and caucuses.) Senator Clinton is the clear winner.

    Hillary is absolutely the better candidate. She has the right vision; track record of getting reforms made, and has the governing experience and leadership we need to rebuild our country. Unfortunately, almost half of the Democrats are letting their emotions and excitement for the smooth talking Obama cloud the strategic reality that Clinton is more electable, and frankly yes, has earned this nomination. I feel the people have been robbed of a great candidate and now are being asked (told) to accept the new (less experienced) candidate who clearly modeled much of his platform from her plans. We want the real thing-the original—not the flawed copy. If the DNC is going to turn their backs on over ½ of their constituents, then they deserve to lose. The only way I would ever vote for him is if Hillary was on the ticket. No Hillary, no vote.

    One of the disenfranchised majority.

    June 8, 2008 at 9:45 pm |
  4. Cherie

    I find it interesting that the media – has taken to writing Obama's campaign strategy for him. I highly question the sincerity of the author. This woman is just another Obama synchophant attempting to manipulate other women into voting for Obama.

    If B.O. really wanted to win over the Hillary Supporters, for one thing, he could apologize to her. He could offer an apology for all of the mud , and name -calling directed at Hillary and the Clintons. He was very effective at having his surrogates to do his dirt. He had to make accusations that the Clintons are racists, in the beginning in order to win over the african americans, because he did not have their vote. He had to question her judgement, because he has no experience.

    I too, as as woman feel betrayed by the so-called Democratic party. I will NEVER vote for B.O. I will leave the party and switch to independent.
    This year I will go to the poll and WRITE IN HILLARY CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT ON MY BALLOT.

    June 8, 2008 at 12:45 pm |
  5. Linda Trost

    Somebody please tell me that Barackstar was NOT GOLFING today while Hillary gave her speech! Now THAT'S a real plan to woo 18 million voters!

    June 8, 2008 at 3:04 am |
  6. Dr Linda Jenkins of New York

    I am a African-American career woman who is a supporter of Hillary Clinton for President. I am surprised at how hypercritical your female pundents were toward Hillary and still are even through today toward her concession speech. How many of thiem ran for President and how many of them received 18 million votes? I guess for them It is easier to bite someone rather than to support. I am saddened that there are still "professional" women out there who still believe that only a man should lead and the woman stay four feet behind him in more ways than one. I am saddened with the fact as to the way Hillary was treated by her own Party who are simply enslaved by Media. All turned their back on her and this speaks alot about how they value women and their still backward thinking toward women in power. The Democratic Party is a party of cowards who are not for the People and are so much afraid of the media that they would sacrifice good and common sensible leadership for another simply because of rockstar appeal. America does not need a rock star; a Preacher, or another false prophet or Messiah for its leader. America needs a leader who is able to listen, to understand; to emphasize and to develop new and fresh solutions to improve the environment; the economy; to end the war in Iraq and to stop this country's policy to try to police the world when we have so many issues back here at home to deal with. Obama is the darling of the Media. It is digusting as to how the Media of CNN are in so much denial of the biased coverage they gave to Hillary in favor of Obama. They treat him as the second coming of the Lord; Martin Luther King Jr; Robert Kennedy. Obama is his own man he is not like those slain leaders. They all had their own mind and were not necessarily darlings of the Media while they were alive. Those men stood for real radical change, they were innovative; were motivated to help others and fought for civil rights. Obama has copied Bush's tactic to simplify his message that he says over and over. America and the Media are punked again – he is just like our current President in that area. Like Bush four and eight years ago, Obama is the Media's darling. He is not to questioned; he is not to be criticized and God forbid that we skip a day without giving him free publicity and extra head shots over any other challenging him. I am surprised that CNN is turning cheap in its coverage of this important race. The Pundents need to be more fair; and stop their baisd and favoring coverage of Obama. He could be another Bush wrapped in sheep's clothing. I want lower taxes; lower gas prices; health insurance for all – not another false prophit and Messiah. God would not touch any office in Politics with a ten foot pole.

    June 8, 2008 at 2:30 am |
  7. Curtis L. Winston

    I guess you can say that I am very excited that the Democrats finally had two very good candidates compete for the nomination to be president. I followed each election, listened to most of the debates, and watched the speeches the candidates made during the day on CNN. However, to a point I felt that both candidates should be on each other’s ticket when the marathon race was completed. Well my feelings began to change slowly during the election process. Why? Well Barack Obama, was talking a lot about change. Change is exactly what I and many of my friends and family want. Nevertheless, the injection of sexism and race being injected into the process by the Clinton camp, started to disturb me, as it did with my friends. I could not believe what was going on, I thought to myself; “I hope she and Bill stop this type of campaigning” I did not want my thoughts to fade about a potential DREAM TICKET. I started to believe that the Clintons, will and would say just about anything to win. Like the gas tax holiday, being shot at as she was getting off a plane. Well I now feel that it is Barack’s decision on who he wants to run with him. Whomever he chooses I am still going to vote for him. I feel he is the CHANGE America needs. She did give a very moving concession speech today, but I feel it was 4 days overdue. Keep going Barack with your positive message of Change because WE CAN DO IT!!!

    June 8, 2008 at 1:38 am |
  8. Debbie

    Hillary may have alot of "name recognition" with Americans...but, Obama seems to have alot of "personal recognition" with Anti-American, Anti-White, Terrorist type people. I would Never vote for someone with his "incomplete" background ...too many unanswered questions about him. McCain will be getting my vote and the votes of my entire family. Obama can't change who is seems to be and, therefore, can't "persuade" us to change our mind about him.

    McCain in 2008
    Hillary in 2012

    June 7, 2008 at 10:01 pm |
  9. king al

    My my my what a spot you FEMALE Hillary supporters are. On one hand you have the MAN who DERAILED your all your dreams of the first female president, or the MAN whose SUPREME COURT JUDGES HE will put in place WILL overturn ROE VS. WADE. What a choice! Glad I don't have to make it!

    June 7, 2008 at 7:40 pm |
  10. ginger

    "Write Hillary in or vote McCain"

    Yeah, my boss and another co-worker both African American are crying the same thing. In their anger and disappointment they are prepared to either not vote, vote McCain or write in Hillary's name. Now think about this: A no vote, or writing in Hillary's name is the same as a vote for McCain. People who feel this way have spent 16 months supporting Hillary and her beliefs, which DO NOT have anything in common with John McCain. And it sets women back even further in the political process because it says we cannot behave as mature adults when or candidate doesn't win. Do any of you honestly think the world is going to forget your behavior? As a woman I am really disappointed in boss and co-worker. They are so bitter, yes bitter because Obama won. They could care less if our country ends up in John McCains hands. But a year or two of continued Bush policies will have those with the mind-set I'll vote McCain rather Obama will regret that choice.

    Have you read the head-lines in your morning newspaper? Well I have and it's scary. Gas will $5.00 by next week and maybe $6.00 by July. What about the unemployment rate? Our country has been left in dark sinking hole under the Bush administration. And while McCain says it will be different under him that's not true. He is republician isn't he. Is his party ready to stand behind him for the change Hillary and Obama will bring this country. No way!

    Have a great day.

    June 7, 2008 at 11:13 am |
  11. LAVON K HUMMEL

    Angry man, And the rest of you not voting or going republican. What are you so scared of. No one, Nobody could have such a nee jurk reaction to a man winning this race such as some of you people. So stop hiding behind half toss excuses as to why you can't vote for Sen. Obama. You shouldn't be allowed to vote at all. or pay some kind of penalty. for your reckless use of your vote. It's your right not to vote. Useing your vote for spite. Is a sad state of afairs.

    June 7, 2008 at 4:52 am |
  12. LAVON K HUMMEL

    Kathey VanBruinsse. What you are saying and doing makes no sense. He reads Q cards. Your funny. I think you mean McCain read great Q cards. Well your just a great exsample of how the older generation has scewed up this county, and somehow they still think they got it right. Hell yeh Kathy your 61. so since your life is closer to its last stand than say a 18-30 somethings throw your vote away. For goodness sakes lets not leave anything for the young people. The young people will are the one fighting for us. because of Republican in power now. So because you have such hate. You would give them more of the same. Really you shame me, not only as a women, but as a American. The young will have to live and pay for your self center choice. Most Clinton supporters are not like you. thank God.

    June 7, 2008 at 4:14 am |
  13. Yves

    The Obama people purposely changed President Clinton "Fairy Tale"
    comment. That's deceiving! The "Jesse Jackson" comparison and the "Kennedy's asssination" in June. I'm a black woman married to a white man, the race card was played on Obams's side.
    The superdelegates selected Mr. Obama, this was not a primary election, it was a selection.
    The media was unfair to Senator Clinton.
    How arrogant of Mr. Obam's campaign and the media to talk about Senator Clinton supporters average income of $50K? Wait until Obama increase taxes for people making $75K. 75K now a days is not middle class salary. An increase in taxes for salary of $250K is more appropriate, as suggested by Senator Clinton. Let Obama increase taxes for the $75K people, wait and see where the economy will go. Let Obama keep on calling women "sweetie"
    Does anyone in the media understand psychology? Once one experiences a loss, you are on a state of shock and disbelief, then move on to anger, then acceptance and resignation. Conceding on Tuesday night would have made Sentor Clinton weak, not the fighter we believe in. She is a human being, she is entitled to resolve her emotion before moving on to other matter. So, Obama got his selection, what was the rush?
    Wait and see, in November the loss of Senator Clinton will be Mr. McCain's gain.

    June 7, 2008 at 2:50 am |
  14. Sara Gunderson

    Part of why I became a Clinton supporter was because I was deeply disturbed by the sexist tone of Obama's campaign. My concern grew when Obama turned his back on Clinton and refused to shake her hand at the State of the Union. He had pretty much lost my vote in the run-up to Iowa, but that was it for me.

    I won't be voting for McCain, but I don't know yet if I can vote for Obama. I will have to see a significant change in him and in his campaign before I will vote for him in November. I have felt patronized by him and his campaign and bludgeoned by his supporters. Party unity can't be demanded, it has to be created and earned. So at this point I have to wait and see if he will earn my loyalty and my vote.

    June 7, 2008 at 2:17 am |
  15. Jackie

    If Hillary endorses Obama she will mean it because she is thaat type of person. I on the other hand am not. I wont vote for Obama for anything even if Hillary is on the ticket for VP. Personally, I wouldn't kiss his butt, tomorrow night.

    Tuesday she was celebrating her win in SD. Why should she make a big to do over him? When she won WV, he didn't congratulate her, instead he made a big todo with John Edwards and his endorsement. I hope she just susppends her run and goes on to the convention.

    Hillary, hang on to your delagtes, don't release them to that radical. anti-semite, elitist. As far, as most of us following her, his supporters, that have been so nasty to us and told us we were not wanted, you have replaced us with younger people fine.

    All the media, th DNC, the pundits, and Obama's camp have been nothing but, nasty to Hillary, her family and her supporters. We are not stupid people, we know Obama was selected not elected, and I'll be joining the majority of her supporters voting for John McCain.
    I have already left the democratic party that is Obama's and now I am an Independent, senior, uneducated, bible thumping woman, who will be campaigning for John McCain because he is at least honest and
    trustworthy and telling me he might overturn Roe vs. Wade wont do it.

    He can't do it by himself, just like Hillary didn't sign the document for the Iraq war alone. Ninety-Nine percent of Obama' staff that was in the Senate signed it too.

    I can't hardly contain myself, waiting to see the democrats lose again this year. I think its' funny. The messiah or golden boy wont be able to close again.

    June 7, 2008 at 1:42 am |
  16. Kathy VanBruinisse

    I am one of Hillary's supporters and there is no way in hell I will vote Democratic in the fall. I really don't care what Hillary says or if she runs on his ticket. She's the one with the expierence that made me vote and support her and she's the one who in every debate answered every question. Obama reads a great Q card but I don't see the substance. I'm sick of the news media bias also. This woman ran a great campaign and all you hear are insults being flung from the Obama campaign and the news media. I have been a Democrat all my life and I'm 61 and this year I will either write in HIllary or vote McCain!

    June 6, 2008 at 10:33 pm |
  17. Carolyn from GA

    Please don't keep saying that FL/MI voters were disenfranchised and that you will vote for McCain as punishment. Keep in mind that the Republicans also punished FL/MI for holding primaries early as well with the same consequences. So, going Republican is not the answer if that is your reason. The only difference is that you didn't have candidates deciding that they wanted to change the rules to benefit them once they got behind. I guess that they (the republicans) understood the rules and abided by them.

    Frankly, the only disenfranchised voters from FL/MI that I see were the people who chose not to go and vote knowing IN ADVANCE that their vote would not count and finding out later that the DNC was going to count them. If they had known that they would count, they would have voted. Therefore, they missed out on their chance (1/2 vote or full vote) to have their voices heard in the selection of a nominee. Those are the voters that should be angry.

    TO DAVID: As a woman, I agree with you wholeheartedly. She is the wife a former president and that carried with it a lot of weight such as name recognition and the experience that she gained as a former 1st lady. Name recognition put the other candidates, not just Obama, at a disadvantage when Clinton wanted full delegates seated in MI & FL knowing that she wasn't going to campaign there.

    Now that the primaries are over, we need to realize that McCain is not the best alternative choice for a woman's agenda, at least not this woman's agenda. I don't see how anyone can say that they will vote for McCain, because Hillary did not win. She didn't have the popular vote because her counts did NOT include the caucus states, sorry. We need to be united against McCain.

    OBAMA 2008

    June 6, 2008 at 9:46 pm |
  18. Kathi G.

    nope, *I* for one will NEVER EVER vote for obama. my cat is better qualified.

    hope his over 3 million new young voters can make up for hillary's supporters...

    how about THAT math.

    the DNC dug their own grave by pimping out their shiny new meat puppet that has no platform of his own.

    i cannot WAIT to see him crash and burn (on his own...)

    McCain 08!! & Clinton12!!

    June 6, 2008 at 9:45 pm |
  19. Elaine

    One thing Obama needs to do to get women to vote for him: not choose a misogynist like Jim "Woman-hater" Webb as his running mate. A woman would be great, but almost any Democrat, male or female, would be better than Webb.

    June 6, 2008 at 9:42 pm |
  20. Lesli

    To Min. Donald Williams

    You have made a very valid point. Unfortunately people above don't sound like they belong in a church this Sunday taking communion until they make a confession or two.

    I've never seen so many gloating winners and sore loosers before.

    I guess I'll have to say a few prayers before I sit in the pew on Sunday.

    June 6, 2008 at 4:22 pm |
  21. Bev

    Your Alinsky magic won't work on everyone!

    June 6, 2008 at 4:17 pm |
  22. Lesli

    George, George, George – I'm afraid your humor is lost on most people. See the other blog you posted – people are taking you seriously.

    June 6, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  23. Karen-Phoenix

    All of Hillary's need to be reminded on Sat. by her just what will happen to their sons and daughters if McCain gets in. They will be in Iraq forever!! And the next generation will probably have no health care unless they are very, very rich. Our roads, bridges and school are falling apart now–what will they be like in a McCain world? All he wants to do is spend money on wars, wars and more wars. And most of his upper administration for his campaign are Washington lobbiests of the worst kind! Do you want a McCain world or an Obama world where we have some hope for our jobs, schools, health insurance and more. AND Hillary will make sure, working with Barack that we get national health care!!!

    June 6, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
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