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Nunn, Perdue reach out to Georgia women
composite nun perdue

EVANS — You don't hear Michelle Nunn mention gender politics or try to rally female voters in Georgia around issues of abortion, birth control and gay marriage as she runs for the Senate.

Yet there's no question that Nunn has tailored her message in the final few weeks of her campaign against Republican David Perdue to reach women, trying to win over those who voted Republican in recent years but might be open to casting a ballot for a Democrat.

She's just doing it by focusing on pocketbook issues, from supporting an equal pay bill to attacking Perdue over a gender discrimination lawsuit filed against a company he led as its chief executive.

"Can the women of Georgia trust David Perdue?" a narrator asks in a Nunn TV ad. "If David Perdue didn't do right by the women at his company, why would he do right for Georgia?"

While Republicans hold every statewide office in Georgia, Democrats view Georgia — along with surprising Kansas — as the places where they have the best chance to pick off a seat now held by the GOP. Doing so would complicate the math for Republicans, who appear on track to net the six seats they need to win control of the Senate.

Democrats in other close races, most notably Iowa and Colorado, are also counting on motivating women, especially new voters and those who typically sit out elections in nonpresidential years. They've done so by hammering away at social issues, including abortion, but it's a strategy with clear risks in Georgia.

"The positions that she has on social issues might not be in line with a mainstream Georgia voter," Georgia-based GOP strategist Chip Lake said of Nunn. "She wants to try to play it as safe as she possibly can."

That's led Nunn to focus on what she calls issues of economic fairness and opportunity. Nunn has argued, for example, that Perdue opposes an increase in the minimum wage and takes care to note than 70 percent of those receiving such pay are women.

"I certainly hope that people recognize that there is a real difference in terms of our records," Nunn said.

In the 2012 elections, President Barack Obama cruised to re-election and Democrats kept control of the Senate, in part, with the battle cry that the GOP was waging a "war on women" — promoting policies that are detrimental for women. But you won't hear Nunn use that phrase while campaigning, and Republicans say they have learned important lessons on gender politics since then.

Perdue isn't ceding any votes among women, launching a "Women for Perdue" group led by his wife, Bonnie. At a recent event in Columbia County, Bonnie Perdue talked about how the nation's debt is holding back the economy.

"You talk to women and their kids are moving back home, they've lost jobs, their husbands have lost jobs," she said. "They feel the failed policies of this administration every time they go to the grocery store, every time they have to fill their car with gas."

Perdue's on the air with an ad featuring four women who talk about how his career was spent "helping to create and save thousands of jobs right here in America." The women in the ad also look to raise questions about where Nunn stands on issues like the economy.

"When you look at the problems in this country, they are related to jobs and economic growth and David has 40 years of experience in those fields," Bonnie Perdue said.

More than 9 in 10 women who are likely to vote in November said the economy was an extremely or very important issue for them personally, and most, 60 percent, said it was in poor shape, a September AP-GfK poll found. Both figures are about the same as among men.

For Carol Baird, a 63-year-old retired federal employee living in Atlanta, it was the government shutdown that motivated her to get involved in a political campaign and volunteer for Nunn.

"A year ago, I got mad about the government shutdown and I went looking for this office," Baird said. "I felt like (Republicans) were trying to use their ability to impact the government, to hamper government operations so they could say, 'See? The government doesn't work.'"

Reaching out to women has also been a major focus in Georgia's competitive governor's race, where Democrat Jason Carter is challenging Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. Carter, a state senator and grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, features women prominently in TV ads arguing middle-class families are being left behind while Deal touts Georgia as a leader for women-owned businesses.


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