The election is getting closer, and polls show that twice as many women as men are still on the fence. Both President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney are wooing women because we have clout: In 2008, for example, 10 million more women voted than men. To pinpoint the issues that matter most to moms, Parents recently invited a group with a variety of political views to a luncheon roundtable moderated by Soledad O'Brien, anchor of CNN's Starting Point With Soledad.
We heard loud and clear that moms are underwhelmed with their options, and neither of the candidates has a lock. Some who voted for Obama four years ago are disappointed and feel he broke promises. Others who usually vote Republican are lukewarm about Romney. And even though he won't be on the ballot, a few still wish they could vote for Ron Paul. "People saw themselves as a combination of philosophies," said O'Brien. "They described themselves as a 'left-leaning Republican' or a 'Democrat thinking about Romney.'" In our September issue, we covered moms' concerns about education and the environment. In this second of our three-part series, we focus on the economy, how much government moms want in their daily lives, and political polarization.Help Us Regain Our Financial Footing
No matter where they are on the political spectrum, moms long for a leader who can rebuild the economy. Many spoke about how tough it is to simply own a home and raise a family. Take Jessica Grant, 34, a Republican and mom of children ages 7, 5, and 2. She and her husband, both lawyers, are paying off $300,000 in student loans and can't refinance their mortgage, now at 6.75 percent. "Our loan-to-value ratio is low, so we're stuck. We're the ones who get the short end of the stick. We don't want a bailout; we took on obligations and will repay them."
Although her work with charter schools makes her very aware of the obstacles that low-income parents face, Valerie Babb, 39, a Democrat and mom of daughters ages 7 and 3, said she sometimes feels that the pinch on the middle class is even greater. "We work hard. My husband and I make decent money on paper, but that's not what we take home. It's very frustrating."
When the economy took a dive back in 2008, people were trying to have a good attitude, recalled Emily McKhann, 50, an Obama supporter and mom of children ages 12 and 10. "We were all saying, 'let's have a pantry challenge' and making DIY holiday gifts. Now there's exhaustion. I know that people keep saying the economy is rebounding, but it's still all that the moms I know are talking about," says McKhann, cofounder of themotherhood.com. "They struggle to make ends meet and to find a job that is actually going to allow them to put food on the table and sneakers on their kids, and pay for college." O'Brien pointed out that every head in the room was nodding in agreement.
Some moms, like Thalia Stamatelos, 48, who has children ages 6 and 2, believe that the Republicans will do a better job of putting more money in families' pockets by reducing taxes. "I'm a small-business owner. I worry how I will pay my employees and how I will get through the next day," she said. "But I am just trying to be successful, and that's the American way. If people have earned money, they should get it. It's not right to take their money away from them." O'Brien was struck by the tone in the room. "Moms really want to talk about the economy. And not just talk. They want very practical, solution-oriented information."