Obama, McCain Seek Demographic Force Like Soccer Moms
(Bloomberg) -- Political strategists and pollsters are on the hunt for the ``soccer moms'' and ``Nascar dads'' of 2008, the blocs of swing voters with enough clout to turn the tide in the presidential race.

Pollsters haven't yet popularized catchy labels for key demographic groups, like the minivan-driving suburban ``soccer moms'' deemed crucial in 1996.
There is one group that's up for grabs and could swing the election to Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain: women in their 50s and 60s without a college education.
``These women tend to be security oriented, in the broadest sense,'' said Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster. ``They don't want a risky choice.'' Those attitudes present a challenge for Obama, he said. Because the same women are ``hard-pressed economically,'' however, Garin said they may be receptive to the Democrat's campaign. ``They're the ones managing the food budget, paying the health-care bills,'' Garin said.
Heading into the fall campaign, McCain held a 42-39 percent lead among non-college educated white woman, between 50 and 69 years old, in a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll last month.
McCain, an Arizona senator and former prisoner-of-war, led first-term Illinois Senator Obama by large margins when the women were asked which candidate had the right experience to be president and which would best protect the U.S. from terrorism.
Among the same women, more than eight out of 10 said they thought the U.S. is on the wrong track and that the economy is doing badly. Only 16 percent expected the economy to improve in the next six months. Most of the women said the situation in Iraq under Saddam Hussein wasn't worth going to war over.
Voting Patterns
Women are slightly more likely than men to vote, past participation patterns show. In the 2004 election, 65.4 percent of eligible women voted, compared with 62.1 percent of eligible men.
If the economy remains the central issue by Election Day, ``you have to believe Obama has an advantage,'' said Chris Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown, Pennsylvania. ``If the security issue reemerges as more potent, that will of course help McCain.''
Four years ago, President George W. Bush beat Democrat John Kerry by a 2-1 margin among white, non-college educated women between 45 and 64, according to exit polling by the Los Angeles Times. That was a dramatic turnaround from 2000, when Democrat Al Gore beat Bush 51-47 percent among that group.
This time around, holding onto those voters is essential for McCain's chances of victory, Garin said.
Republican Arithmetic
``If Obama comes any place close to breaking even with them, he'll win the election,'' he said. ``If McCain can't replicate the kind of movement Bush achieved with this group in 2004, the Republican arithmetic will become very difficult.''
Obama and McCain are targeting other voter blocs needed for victory. McCain is trying to repeat Bush's success with evangelicals and Hispanics. Bush won 40 percent of historically Democratic-leaning Latino voters in 2004.
Obama is working to repeat his primary-campaign success in drawing black voters to the polls, and is seeking record numbers of young voters, who traditionally are less likely to vote than their elders. On the downside, polls suggest older white voters, who usually turn out in large numbers, are less comfortable supporting him.
Finding the right pieces of this year's voter puzzle is complicated because Obama, the first black candidate on a major- party ticket, may upend historical trends and assumptions about voter turnout, said Karlyn Bowman, who tracks polling at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. ``The electoral calculus is more difficult to predict today,'' she said.

Clinton Voters
In pursuing non-college educated, older white women, Obama must appeal to voters who backed his primary opponent, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, Borick said. Obama ``got killed in that group'' during the primaries, he said.
Because of the sagging economy under a Republican president, these female voters should look favorably on Democrats, said Dick Bennett, president of American Research Group in Manchester, New Hampshire. However, ``at the moment, they are not buying Obama,'' he said.
Election watchers have been preoccupied with picking pivotal demographic groups since the 1970 publication of ``The Real Majority,'' in which authors Richard Scammon and Ben Wattenberg said political success depended on the so-called Dayton housewife -- a middle American, middle-aged woman turned off by the social unrest of the 1960s. That group was courted by Richard Nixon in his successful 1972 re-election campaign.
``Security moms'' worried about terrorism were coveted in 2004, along with ``Nascar dads,'' white working-class stock-car racing fans.
Dinner-Table Debates
Overall, voters who aren't loyal to either major party will be prime targets for both campaigns. More than 30 percent of self-described independent voters were either undecided or leaning toward a minor-party candidate in June's Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll.
In the end, campaign success with these middle-aged women may be determined at the dinner table, in discussions with white male family members favoring McCain, Bennett said. ``The real struggle is going to be what happens in the households,'' said Bennett. ``It's not a close race if they convince their wives to go with McCain.'' If the women swing to the Democrats, Bennett said, and convince their husbands to vote with them, Obama will win.