"We need to make sure that women and families understand what the
choice here is because this is a close race," Shaheen told
supporters after collecting the endorsement of the state chapter of
abortion rights activist group NARAL.
Shaheen is one of the three Democratic incumbent female U.S.
senators up for re-election in November. Republicans consider all
three seats vulnerable as they look to take a majority in the
Senate, which Democrats currently control by a margin of 53-45, with
To fire up core supporters and attract independent women voters,
Shaheen and her North Carolina counterpart, Senator Kay Hagan, have
focused much of their campaigning on protecting access to abortion,
as well as women's health generally, issues they hope can offset
their opponents' focus on unpopular Democratic President Barack
The third female Democratic incumbent, Senator Mary Landrieu, has
sought to avoid the issue in her re-election bid in conservative
Democrats' strategy to seize on what was termed a "war on women" by
Republicans was particularly effective in 2012. Comments such as one
by former Missouri Representative Todd Akin that victims of
"legitimate rape" rarely became pregnant helped Democrats win the
women's vote by wide margins.
"Women voters are the most important component going into the final
few weeks of this campaign," said Neil Levesque, executive director
of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm's College.
"There are some issues which will get a voter into their car in the
middle of a blizzard," he said. "Reproductive issues, Second
Amendment issues will traditionally do that."
WAR OF WORDS
Shaheen's plea for support came at an event hosted by the NARAL
Pro-Choice America PAC, where activists expressed alarm over New
Hampshire Republicans' adoption of a "personhood" measure in their
platform, calling for abortion to be outlawed.
Brown, who served as a senator from Massachusetts from 2010 to 2013,
and lost his 2012 re-election bid, was quick to distance himself
from that New Hampshire platform.
Brown says decisions on abortion are "best made between a woman and
Even so, Shaheen supporters said they objected to Brown's backing of
a 2012 bill to allow employers to opt out of providing insurance
coverage for birth control for religious reasons.
"As a Republican woman, the choice is easy to support Senator
Shaheen," said Elizabeth Hager, a NARAL board member from Concord,
MIND THE GAP
Shaheen and Hagan were both elected in 2008, when heavy turnout by
Democratic voters helped Obama become the country's first black
Both received strong support from female voters. Shaheen captured 60
percent of women's votes in New Hampshire, while North Carolina's
Hagan won the support of 55 percent of women.
[to top of second column]
Polls show a similar gap heading into November's election.
recent poll on the New Hampshire matchup by American Research Group
found Shaheen with the support of 53 percent of 600 likely voters,
ahead of Brown's 43 percent. Among women, Shaheen's lead widened to
59 percent to 38 percent.
In North Carolina, a recent CNN poll found Hagan leading state House
Speaker Thom Tillis by 46 percent to 43 percent among 595 likely
voters, with her lead extending to 49 percent to 40 percent among
Hagan's campaign and women's groups have criticized Tillis for
cutting funding for Planned Parenthood and backing new abortion
restrictions, while saying he supported making some forms of birth
control available without a prescription, something that Hagan
supporters called an empty gesture.
"Women are a lot smarter than Republicans give them credit for,"
said Jess McIntosh, spokeswoman for Emily's List, a national
organization that backs pro-abortion rights Democratic women
Emily's List, through its independent expenditure arm "Women Vote,"
is spending $3 million against Tillis in North Carolina and also
considers New Hampshire one of its top priorities, McIntosh said.
In a sign of the importance of the women's vote to both parties, the
National Republican Senatorial Committee released a TV ad last week
featuring women who said Hagan was not an effective senator.
"Women voters are concerned about jobs, and they're concerned about
national security," Tillis campaign spokeswoman Meghan Burris said.
But women's groups say Republicans who ignore the other key issues
women care about do so at their own peril.
"Women's access to healthcare and economic opportunity are the No. 1
motivators for swing voters this year," McIntosh said. "The idea
that women should be paid fairly and have access to her own health
care decisions is not a small factor."
(Reporting by Scott Malone and Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Leslie
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