GOP blunder on education Women rebel: Assaults on federal department and teachers unions boomerang.

November 29, 1996

PREDICTION: Missing from the Republican National Platform in 2000 will be the GOP's 1996 appeal for elimination of the U.S. Department of Education. Republican governors meeting this week in Grand Rapids, Mich., got some mind-focusing news from their own party's election analysts. Bob Dole lost the women's vote by a whopping margin of 59 to 35 percent. And the most salient issue damaging to the GOP was education.

National Committee chairman Haley Barbour lamented the party's failure to explain its education philosophy in more positive terms. Said Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich.: "Instead of talking about abolishing the Department of Education, we should be talking about sending more money back to mothers and fathers. Closing the Department of Education translated into less benefits for your children."

Especially troubling to GOP leaders was the party's falling popularity among married women with children -- the so-called "soccer moms" celebrated as a key voter group during the election. In past contests they had divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans. But on Nov. 5, they went for President Clinton by 52 to 41 percent, according to GOP figures, and thus went the election.

Presidential candidate Dole did little for the cause when he unleashed a vitriolic attack on teachers unions in his Aug. 15 acceptance speech, vowing to "disregard" their power if elected and push "school choice and competition." It was Mr. Clinton's calls for school uniforms and teen-age curfews that resonated better with voters, especially among Catholics.

As Mr. Clinton appealed to women by stressing education and family leave, and even trumpeted "values" more loudly than the Republicans, he coasted to victory in the first election everywhere a male-only vote might have elected Mr. Dole by a small margin. However, Republicans have yet to demand repeal of the 19th amendment to the Constitution that extended suffrage to women in 1919. And we wouldn't advise that they do so.

Pub Date: 11/29/96

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