Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Barack's sex factor made him a winner with female voters

U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage with first lady Michelle Obama after his victory speech on election night

The day before the election, Barack Obama stopped by a Democratic campaign office in Wisconsin, sat down at a desk, and began phoning voters and volunteers. We don't know the details of all the calls he made, but the ones we do know about were all to women. Once he'd persuaded the recipients who he was, the calls appear to have gone rather well.

When the story went out, Twitter users debated what they'd have said if they'd got one of Obama's calls. 'I would have asked him to sing to me, no doubt about it' said one woman. 'Keep your knickers on,' replied a man, not entirely reflecting the response of the swathe of swooning women lost momentarily in romantic reverie.

When I previously wrote about being a bit in love with Obama in this column I got hit with some scoffing comments, accusing me of being pathetically superficial and an affront to feminism (it was a man who said that, but he was metrosexual so fair enough). Rather than engage with the real issues, they said, I was simply lying back and dreaming of seduction. If I had a vote, would it really be swayed according to a candidate's ability to woo me?

Hell, yes. I'd back any candidate I could fall in love with. Because (listen up chaps) regardless of how sexy he was, I could only fall in love with a man who'd already proved he was compassionate, fair-minded and whip-smart. Whom I knew to be respectful of women and to believe whole-heartedly in equality.

If, on top of that, he could sweep me up and swoop me round a ballroom the joyful way Obama does his wife, or sing to me with the sass and soul the president showed when he unexpectedly launched into Al Green's Let's Stay Together during a speech last year, you wouldn't be able to stop me planting a pouty X in his favour. Come rain or come shine.

America 2012 was the women's election. 56% of the electorate were women and most of the women wanted Obama. In fact, they favoured him by a whopping 12 points. There were lots of reasons. As one female voter put it on Wednesday morning, 'I'm celebrating because I get to keep ownership of my uterus!' A very American way of putting it certainly (we usually prefer the softer, and, I think, more onomatopoetically satisfying, 'womb'), but the point, separating Obama from the stridently pro-life Republicans, is clear; abortion (and public subsidy of contraception) was a big social issue in this election. Significantly, Obama's pro-choice stance was interpreted as a respectful acceptance of a woman's personal freedom, rather than a kneejerk take-up of a standard liberal position.

Obama is also regarded as someone who values powerful, intelligent women with career hopes worth fulfilling. Married to one-time breadwinner and forever high-flying Michelle, how could he be anything else?

For the 40% of American women who are now the main earners in their family, that evidence of empathy and support for their situation was crucial.

At the same time, he has never sidelined his role as an involved, present dad, and a thoughtful, romantic, anniversary-remembering husband. This is a guy who has a lot of important bases covered.

With clever, tough Hillary C on one side and his intelligent, level-headed wife on the other, Obama's next term can only be good news for Ms America.

The rest of us will just have to watch, with a longing sigh, from the wings.

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