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Suburban women largely undecided on Bush and Gore

CLAYTON, Missouri (CNN) -- Liz Reinus is the no nonsense type. No qualms about a brisk bike ride on a cold rainy morning, no hesitation about her choice for president.

"I don't elect a warm and fuzzy president. I elect someone that I think has the wherewithal to lead the country, who has the political views that I espouse. I am pro-choice. I am pro-gun control," she says.

Liz Reinus  

So, count one vote for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in the struggle for the suburbs and one of campaign 2000's most critical battleground states.

Missouri has backed the winner in every presidential election this century except one -- in 1956. And close statewide races are won -- or lost -- here in the St. Louis suburbs, where women are the key swing voting block.

It's a comfortable place to live. Most parents praise the schools and the atmosphere for raising a family. Economic times are also pretty good, but that doesn't always work to the vice president's advantage.

"The past eight years have been a time of huge prosperity and we have seen very little progress in our schools and things I care about," said Karen Grossman, a part-time teacher.

Grossman, a mother of two, is conflicted when it comes to picking a president.

Karen Grossman  

"I really feel if I was going to vote my conscience, take care of the children, the poor, I would vote Democrat. But I'm not sure Gore is going to get the job done."

The name Monica Lewinsky doesn't come up nearly as much as it did during a similar discussion with this group six months ago, but morality and values remain a strong undercurrent as the campaign comes to a close.

"Although I don't agree with what he did in his private life, it was his private life," says Maureen O'Donnell.

Republican nominee George W. Bush had the edge among suburban women before the summer political conventions, but most polls now give Gore a significant advantage among their ranks -- in line with the suburban gender gap President Clinton enjoyed at this time four years ago.

Elizabeth Mesker  

Topics such as health care, education, and the Supreme Court dominate when the talk in the suburbs turns to policy. "The one thing is: Who is going to be more effective with Congress?" says Grossman.

But for some, like Elizabeth Mesker, the decision is more personal. "I, for whatever reason believe in Bush, he has more credibility with me."

Lori Mersman sees it that way, too. Although she finds herself in agreement with Gore on many issues, she's casting her lot with Bush. She says Gore's performance in his final debate with Bush was, well, "obnoxious."

"Just the behavior," she explains. "Do I want to look at this guy for the next four years? I don't think so."

Susan McGraw  

Susan McGraw is also leaning toward Bush -- because she doubts Gore's sincerity.

"I probably do associate Gore too closely because of the whole Clinton deal and I pretty much feel Gore has been pretty much of a chameleon through all of this," she says.

But like many others in the group, she remains divided. She agrees with Bush's stance against abortion rights and thinks the Texas governor is the better leader of the two. Yet as the mother of two girls, she believes Gore has it right when it comes to school safety and gun control.

"It's terrible, one minute I'm (for) Bush and then I am Gore," she says. "And then I'm Bush and then I'm Gore."

But she's happy there is still a little more time to talk to things over, a little more time before she helps settle the struggle for the suburbs.



Wednesday, October 25, 2000


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