Moms elect to enter the presidential fray

MOB and WISP draw battle lines in Annapolis

September 28, 2004|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,SUN STAFF

AT THAT MOMENT — For one Annapolis mother, it all began 10 months ago when she heard President Bush proclaim an end to the war in Iraq in an evening radio broadcast.

At that moment -- while listening to the speech and watching her four sons eat tacos around the kitchen table -- Iris Krasnow decided she had had enough.

"I looked at my sons, none of whom have even shaved yet, and said, `I'll be damned if I'm gonna wake up in November 2004 and have Bush as my president,' " said Krasnow, the 50-year-old founder of Mothers Opposing Bush, or MOB.

Eight months later, another Annapolis mother -- while driving her four children around town -- noticed a proliferation of anti-Bush stickers and posters, many generated by MOB.

Suddenly, Gaye Galvin decided that she, too, had had enough.

"I just had this strong feeling that I had to do something to support our president," Galvin said.

So it came to be that two stay-at-home mothers with two very different missions began grass-roots political campaigns from the kitchens and living rooms of their suburban homes -- campaigns that, much to their surprise, soon took on lives of their own.

Since Krasnow started MOB in November, the group has grown from three Annapolis women to a political action committee of almost 19,000 members in 260 cities, all of them united by a Web site.

Teresa Heinz Kerry and Elizabeth Edwards are members of MOB. So is Sopranos actress Edie Falco, who appears in television ads slated to run this week in swing states. To date, the group says, it has raised more than $250,000.

"I simply thought if I was a mother outraged in her kitchen, then there must be other mothers out there like me," said Krasnow, a best-selling author and former journalist. "Now, we are a force."

Although much smaller, WISP -- Women in Support of the President -- is determined not to be outdone.

Founders Galvin, Tammy Doring and Shirli LoSchiavo said the 3-month-old group, which counts 350 members in 20 states, is growing quickly, in part because of its alliance with another coalition of so-called "security moms" based in New York: Moms 4 Bush.

`Passionate' cause

"We started with 500 bumper stickers, and then, this just took off," said Galvin, 35. "I can honestly say that I've never been more passionate about anything in my life."

The campaigns illustrate the strong feelings among -- and heavy courtship of -- women voters this year. Recent polls show that Democrat John Kerry has a slight lead among female voters over Bush.

The groups are also an example of how, with an Internet presence and political passion, grass-roots organizations are playing a more influential role in the presidential campaign, media experts say.

"Women voters are very hotly contested in this election," said Susan Carroll, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. "These grass-roots groups have an effect to the extent that they are appealing to undecided voters -- like so many women."

With five weeks remaining until the Nov. 2 election, MOB and WISP organizers are working constantly to woo undecided women.

Krasnow's kitchen remains central command for MOB, which holds meetings at least once a week. Around the same large table where Krasnow's four children (ages 14, 12 and 10-year-old twins) and husband, architect Chuck Anthony, gather for meals, MOB organizers plot their battle plans.

The plan includes running print ads in college newspapers in swing states across the country encouraging students to vote for Kerry or potentially face a draft notice. The group's bumper stickers -- featuring the catchy MOB logo that Krasnow devised with one of her sons -- have become a familiar sight on fenders.

The television spot starring Falco, which first ran Sept. 3, caused a spike in membership, MOB founders said. Before that, the women relied largely on their Web site to spread their message, as well as a series of high-profile events hosted by figures such as former White House correspondent Helen Thomas and Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein.

When asked how they're countering the central claim of the so-called "security moms" concerned about terrorism -- that Bush will keep America safer than Kerry would -- MOB members say they believe the war in Iraq has made the country less secure.

"How can George Bush make you feel safer?" Krasnow said. "The prospect of four more years of economic uncertainty and his misguided war on terror is intensely frightening."

MOB President Ginger Woolridge agreed, adding that members are just as concerned about domestic issues as they are about the war.

"We are also concerned about issues that matter to families: jobs, health care, education, the deficit," said Woolridge, who along with Donna Jefferson are also founding members of MOB.

For the "security moms," however, the most pressing campaign issue is homeland security.

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