Matalin to St. Louis to sell Talent's U.S. Senate campaign

Wednesday, December 5, 2001

CLAYTON, Mo. -- A notable political woman came to Missouri Tuesday to help Jim Talent enlist more women in his effort to unseat a senator who happens to be a woman.

Mary Matalin was in the St. Louis area for lunch and a pep talk for a new wing of the former congressman's Senate campaign: the Women for Talent Coalition. The group is charged with narrowing Missouri's gender gap -- the tendency of more women to vote for Democrats instead of Republicans.

Speaking to a hotel ballroom packed with about 600 GOP women, Matalin told them to fight the perception that Democrats better represent the female gender on important issues.

"This categorization of women's issues -- these aren't women's issues. These aren't men's issues. These are American issues," Matalin said.

"Our national defense. Our homeland security. These are areas where we need very special leadership in these times."

Matalin is Vice President Dick Cheney's political adviser and is also noted for her marriage to an unlikely spouse: Democratic strategist James Carville. In fact, Carville was here six months ago to raise money for Missouri Democrats, including Talent's likely opponent, Sen. Jean Carnahan.

Talent has been working as a lawyer and college instructor since last fall, when he very narrowly lost the governor's race to Democrat Bob Holden.

While President Bush won Missouri by 51 percent to 47 percent, Holden defeated Talent by about 21,000 votes -- less than 1 percent of ballots cast.

A margin that thin makes every demographic gap a contributing factor. Among women, an exit poll found that about 54 percent voted for Holden compared to 43 percent for Talent.

Next year's Senate race has an additional twist: Talent's opponent is almost certain to be a female incumbent. Carnahan has not officially declared her candidacy, but has raised more than $2.3 million toward a campaign.

Gender should not matter at the ballot box, state Rep. Catherine Hanaway of Warson Woods told the crowd. Hanaway, the Republican leader of the Missouri House, was executive director last year of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Missouri.

"They are going to tell you that you should vote for the other Senate candidate just because she has a set of ovaries," Hanaway said. "It is no more right to vote for a woman than it is to vote for a man based on biology."

The race takes on national importance considering the evenly split U.S. Senate. Democrats set the agenda with a slight 51-49 advantage.

For Talent to win, he will have to target moderate women, said Dale Neumann, a longtime watcher of Missouri politics and retired professor of political science from University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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