California, State of Women?

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I was struck a few days ago by the blunt admission by Hillary’s California field director to me in an interview that HRC focuses her outreach, not only in California but in most states, almost exclusively on women. Which explains Obama’s feminine offensive yesterday with Michelle, Oprah, Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver, not to mention the estrogen-heavy commercials the Illinois senator has been running in state. It also highlights the growing importance of Michelle on the campaign trail as the campaign seeks to draw some of Hillary’s base support.

Oprah yesterday laid how she sees out the choice many women will make in this election: “You know after Iowa, there were some women who had the nerve to say to me: ‘How could you, Oprah, how could you? You are a traitor to your gender,’” she told the crowd in Los Angeles yesterday. “I was both surprised by that and insulted. Because I’ve been a woman my whole life because the truth is I’m a free woman, and being free means you get to think for yourself and you get to decide for yourself what to do. So I say I am not a traitor. No, I am just following my own truth and my truth has led me to Barack Obama.”

Indeed, for California Democrats women are a powerful demographic, making up as much as 58% of the vote. Just look at their elected officials: first female Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein and 36% of California’s 59 House Representatives.

Hillary has two advantages on the female front, aside from the obvious one of electing the first woman president. One, is that by tomorrow as many as two million people may have voted – half of the anticipated four million that are expected to participate in the California primary and, as of last week, more than 60% of the one million folks that have already voted were women. Second, HRC has led in polls up until this week and has much better name recognition than Obama who suffered the bad luck of having absentee ballots in the Golden State delivered the day he lost the New Hampshire primary.

In the latest polls Obama has whittled Hillary’s once 28-point lead to just 0.6% in an average of California polls by Real Clear Politics. Obama guru David Axelrod told reporters this morning, “We’ve had good movement (in California) in the last two weeks but she’s had an edge in the early vote, there’s no doubt about that,” Axelrod said on the Obama plane before taking off to New Jersey.

Hillary still leads polls of California women voters by five percentage points in the latest Rasmussen poll and 13 percentage points in the last Field poll, though it will be interesting to see if the Shriver endorsement as well as Michelle, Caroline Kennedy and Oprah’s Golden State campaigning moves these numbers at all. Certainly, Axelrod thinks they’re making headway – today he predicted that Obama and HRC would finish within 100 electoral votes of one another – hardly lowering expectations: 100 electoral votes is less than a half a percent difference of the 2,000+ electoral votes up for grabs tomorrow.