Women are flocking to Hillary Rodham Clinton's Democratic presidential candidacy and men are doing the same for Republican Fred Thompson. Yet for all that support, both candidates are showing early vulnerability in wooing voters of the opposite sex.
Thompson, the former Tennessee senator and tough-guy actor on television's Law and Order, gets 68 percent of his support from men as he edges toward a run for the Republican Party, or the Grand Old Party (GOP), presidential nomination, far more than other hopefuls, according to recent Associated Press-Ipsos polling.
While he and former New York mayor and front-runner Rudy Giuliani each draw nearly a quarter of the GOP men's vote, he significantly trails his chief rivals among women.
"He seems to be closer to the conservative that I am," says Richard Bussa, 60, a Thompson supporter and retired newspaper writer from Minford, Ohio. "Playing on the police shows he's on, he does present a hard-nosed, law-and-order-type guy."
On the Democratic side, Clinton is showing a mirror-image weakness, though one less stark than Thompson's.
The New York senator and former first lady gets 63 percent of her support from women and has more than twice the women's backing of her nearest rival, Senator Barack Obama (Democrat from Illinois), in AP-Ipsos surveys.
Clinton has only a slender lead among men, who are splitting their allegiances about evenly among her, Obama and former vice-president Al Gore, who has not said he will run.
"She's competent, she's tough," says Diana Roberts, 54, a teacher from Edison, New Jersey. "And I think it's time" for a woman to be president.
These patterns make Clinton and Thompson formidable forces within their parties. A slight majority of GOP voters are men, who tend to be more conservative than women, while just over half of Democratic voters are women, according to figures from recent national elections.
Analysts caution, though, that women tend to choose their candidates later than men, and that many people aren't closely following the campaigns yet. Even so, Thompson and Clinton would each want to attract more voters of the opposite sex should they lead their parties in the 2008 general elections.
"She can certainly win the nomination based on her support among women," says Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who is not affiliated with any presidential candidate. "But at the end of the day for the general election, she needs to make sure she can get her fair share of votes among swing men as well."
Combining data from AP-Ipsos polls from June and July, Clinton - who leads across the US overall - had the support of 41 percent of women. That compared to 19 percent for Obama, 14 percent for Gore and 10 percent for John Edwards. Clinton is strong with women of all ages, married and single.
Clinton also had the backing of 26 percent of men - slightly more than Obama's 23 percent and Gore's 22 percent, while Edwards had 13 percent. Clinton did worst with men who are younger or political independents - the same groups where Obama did best.
Ann Lewis, senior advisor to Clinton, says her leadership ability and the family issues like health care she emphasizes would eventually win over more men. "I think we have room to grow among men."
Thompson enjoys the support of 24 percent of men, and is virtually tied with Giuliani's 22 percent. Both of them are better placed than Senator John McCain (Republican from Arizona), who has the support of 18 percent of the men.
Thompson draws most of his strength from 45-plus and married men - who tend to be more conservative than their younger and single counterparts.
Giuliani leads easily among GOP women, winning 26 percent compared to 16 percent for McCain and 12 percent each for Thompson and Mitt Romney. Giuliani, more moderate than Thompson on abortion and other social issues, gets 54 percent of his support from women.
"To say he has a problem with women misses the point," John McLaughlin, Thompson's pollster, says of the candidate. "Thompson has surged and he's in first place among men now and he's not even in the race. The women voters, they'll be there."
Typifying Thompson's situation is Carolyn Baughn, 70, a retired legal secretary from Jackson, Mississippi, who says she has seen his TV show.
"I haven't seen him make any real political statements, or have to make any decisions that would pertain to the people of the US, and I think that means a lot," says Baughn, a Giuliani supporter.
Also supporting Giuliani is Cheryl Simonich, 50, a training coordinator in West Jordan, Utah, who liked his calm during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She expresses surprise that he's doing well among women.
"He's no George Clooney, you know," she says, referring to the handsome actor.
The July 9-11 AP-Ipsos poll conducted over the telephone covered 1,004 adults and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
For the combined June and July polls, the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for Republicans and plus or minus 3 percentage points for Democrats.
(China Daily via Agencies August 8, 2007)