Cory Atkins isn't swayed by Obama-mania.
The Massachusetts state lawmaker is a loyal supporter of Hillary
Rodham Clinton because "she's been through all of the fights I've
been through as a woman."
Casey Atkins, the state rep's daughter, is in Barack Obama's camp
because of his "more inclusive view of things, his message of
As for what that difference says about women: "That's the paradox
of our success," quips Representative Atkins.
How the women's vote is breaking this Democratic primary season
is proving to be pivotal, as Mr. Obama racks up wins in part on the
basis of white female voters jumping into his camp. In Tuesday's
Wisconsin primary, he won almost as many women's votes as Mrs.
Clinton did - it was a statistical tie, exit polls show. In earlier
primaries, by contrast, Clinton held a 20 percentage-point edge with
female voters - and older women, such as Representative Atkins, were
pillars of that support.
But in a trend apparent since the 2006 midterm elections, when
female candidates didn't fare as well with younger women voters as
they did with their mothers, gender is losing its importance to many
women in the "Gen X" and "Gen Y" sets.
"For baby-boomer women and older women, [Clinton's candidacy] is
very historic," says pollster Celinda Lake. "Younger women tend to
be more impressed with someone of their generation and someone who's
African-American. Gender is just not as salient to them. They want
candidates to prove to them that they are good."
As a result, women voters have gained clout in the volatile
Democratic nominating race, as each campaign fights for their
allegiance, experts say. Many expect that to hold true in the
general election, too.
"Women will determine the president this year. They're the
battleground right now in the primaries, and they're going to be the
battleground in the general election," says Ms. Lake. "For
Democrats, the lesson [for November] is that you have to have women
more enthusiastic about you than men are [excited] about the
Republican, or you're going to lose."
Settling on a candidate can be an arduous mental process for any
voter, but many women are finding that the historic nature of the
2008 presidential campaign is making the choice particularly
Linda Purdy of Moretown, Vt. describes it as both "exhilarating
and agonizing." For the first time in her life, she says, the
Democratic Party's two remaining contenders for the nomination are
not white men.
Ms. Purdy, who was born at the end of the baby boom, finds the
idea of the first female president very appealing, and she admires